Figuring out how to avoid plastic waste isn’t easy, but worth it

Published 12:03 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Plastic is an amazing substance. It has revolutionized our world many times over. We have much cheaper goods, much better health care and much more advanced technology.

But there’s a massive downside to plastic: it doesn’t go away.

Plastic does not break down easily into the environment. While there are alternatives to plastic, they are more expensive and are not as readily available while out and about.

Many of us use something plastic almost every hour of every day. It’s so ubiquitous we often don’t see the plastic that’s all around us.

Ever since I learned about the negative effects plastic waste has on our environment and animal life, I have tried to pay attention to all the ways I use plastic and avoid as many of them as possible.

It’s much, much harder than you might think. I try to avoid plastic straws, utensils, bags and other one-time-use plastics whenever possible. But it’s amazing how many times I end up with plastic items even though I actively try to avoid them.

I have figured out ways to avoid plastic in most of the most common scenarios.

Instead of using a plastic straw, I have reusable metal straws that I try to bring with me whenever I’m eating out. Instead of plastic bags at grocery stores I bring my reusable cloth ones. I even have bamboo utensils so I don’t have to use plastic utensils.

Sometimes I forget to tell waitresses not to give me a straw. Other times I fail to bring enough reusable bags for all the groceries I’m buying. And other times, I just plain forget.

I think I’ve managed to significantly shrink the amount of plastic I use, but I don’t know for sure what I’ve really accomplished.

So I’ve decided to do a little study. I want to see how much plastic I inadvertently end up with during the course of one month. During the month of February I am going to try my best to not use any one-time-use plastics.

Whenever I do get a piece of plastic during the month of February, I will hold onto it. At the end of the month, I’ll report back on how many pieces of unwanted plastic I collected.

I will also try to keep a running tally of how many pieces of plastic I was able to successfully avoid.

By the end, I hope to have some real numbers on how much one-time-use plastic I use and how much I would use if I didn’t try to avoid it at all.

Check back in March and I’ll let you know how it went!

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Amanda’s animal fact of the week

Elephants have the longest gestation period of any mammal. Mother elephants carry their babies for around 95 weeks – around 22 months.

About Amanda Wheeler

Amanda Wheeler is the children and teen services librarian at the Lincoln County Public Library. She has a master's in zoology education from the University of Miami and has taught as an educator at the Cincinnati Zoo.

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