How to recycle: plastic waste is no joke

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By Iris Choi

Ever since we were little, we were taught to clean up after ourselves. Clean up our toys, our rooms, do our laundry, and do the dishes. We only cleaned our small area. We were never taught how to clean properly to make the world a better place.

As we age, we get lazier.  We start to mind the less important things, such as recycling.  The problem with this is worsening, and recycling is more important now than ever.

Over 8 million tons of plastic have ended up in landfills or into the ocean,according to the National Geographic.  Only 9% of plastic ever produced has been recycled, according to Science Advances.  Humans create over 500 million plastics every year and 50% of that is single use plastics.

Roughly 1 million water bottles are purchased every minute, equalling out to 1.3 billion bottles in a day. If we were to gather all the bottles sold in 2018 alone, that would be 486 billion bottles.

That is soaring above the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa in Dubai, if they were all piled up. In 2017, 480 billion plastic water bottles were sold according to Euromonitor International. Because plastics are cheap to produce, many parts of our daily lives have a connection with at least one plastic everyday.

So how do we start on a solution?

Be active in the community 
Engage in community cleaning efforts by volunteering locally for gardens, campaigns, sign up monthly donations for a cause, and even start your own clean up crew.  If these seem too big of a task for you, you can always start with yourself.

Replace plastic items with reusable ones
Get a reusable bag in various sizes and have an extra one in your car or your dorm. It may seem like a waste of money when you purchase it at first, but you are saving yourself from other single-use plastic bags.

When plastic bags end up in the oceans, the currents cause the bags to move like jellyfish would.  Turtle’s diet consists of jellyfish, and when they see a floating bag, they won’t hesitate to consume it. But since the plastic is indigestible, it gets stuck inside their stomach/internal organs.  The turtles need us.

Straws are also one of the most used single use plastics. The straws are small enough to get stuck in a marine animal’s nostrils or get caught in their throat, causing them to suffocate. So save those turtles and either refuse to use plastic straws.  Metal ones can be purchased at almost any store.

Another way you can help the environment is by using your tumblers or mugs. There are cheap ones online and in stores such as Five Below and Dollar Tree.

Paper cups that are thought to be more ‘eco-friendly’, but the wax on the inside that helps prevent the cup from leaking, makes it difficult to be properly recycled. If you think you would break a ceramic mug, Walmart carries reusable plastic cups in multi colors.

Check your recyclables.
Pay attention to what is actually recycled.  The misconception is that you simply need to separate the plastic from the waste, but are they able to be recycled?

Plastic bottles with numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7 can be recycled once the labels are off.  Paper and cardboard should have all grease and wax cut out from them. Aluminum cans should be rinsed with water and label- free as well.

Sometimes it depends on the recycling center in your area. Check out what is recyclable in your community by asking your local county, or visit the US Environmental Protection Agency website to learn more. 

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