Internet challenges come and go, and generally I don’t pay much attention to them. This week, however, I began to see pictures of people posing with bags full of trash they had collected pop up all over social media. It seems the #trashtag challenge has taken off across the globe, bringing a ton of attention to a problem that has plagued us for decades, ever since the advent of our convenient, throwaway lifestyle.
2018 was the year of plastic with plastic pollution reaching public attention more than ever before. The global plastic crisis made the cover of National Geographic, headlines in multiple international news sources and documentaries, and even a special on 60 Minutes. We also saw more plastic pollution policies introduced and adopted worldwide, including over twenty local policies in New Jersey!
In our efforts to reduce waste, we have often heard people say that the “real” problem is the people who throw their garbage on the sidewalk and out their car windows. Of course, we agree that we should change this behavior, but the truth is that littering is not the real problem. We need to change the entire system because the plastic trash that floats in the world's oceans actually decompose and release potentially toxic substances into the water.
The addiction to instant gratification has turned e-commerce into an environmental monster. The fascination with on-demand service and the growth of a “got-to-have-it-now” culture has compelled shipping companies to carry fewer items in their vehicles in order to meet time demands. For expedited shipping orders the e-commerce giant Amazon sends trucks only halfway or partially filled to meet arrival deadlines.
With Americans' busy lifestyles, often the last thing on people's minds is how much garbage they produce. Few people realize the immense impacts their every day actions have on the environment, particularly marine life.
Single-use products are the main source of trash in our waters. When this garbage is disposed of improperly, it ends up in our stormwater and sewer systems, and ultimately our oceans, which has a devastating impact on marine life. In addition, the manufacturing of plastic products produces enormous amounts of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants.
For Plastic Free July, Clean Water Action's ReThink Disposable program is excited to partner with Indie Street Film Fest in Red Bank, NJ to reduce single-use disposable plastic waste. We couldn't be successful without a movement of ReThink Disposable champions and leaders to bring about change in their communities.
The answer on whether to choose paper or plastic is neither. The best environmentally friendly solution is to avoid single-use items altogether in favor of reusables.
The ReThink Disposable team has been hard at work encouraging businesses to reduce their use of plastic straws. One of our greatest lessons learned these past few months is that every voice counts. This Spring, not only did we speak with business owners, we partnered up with local fifth grade students eager to spread the word to help save marine life.