April 22 will bring an Earth Day with a special purpose this year. The theme is “End plastic pollution.” Recent news stories about gigantic, floating masses of plastic waste in our oceans have served to spotlight the worsening problem of plastic pollution. Consumers have a large role to play in the effort to better control the amount of plastics that go into our landfills. Many products are made from it and/or come packaged in it.
Small actions with impact
Fortunately, there are steps that may be taken to help the problem and requiring minimal effort. Here is some advice from your Better Business Bureau:
• Plastic bags are a big contributor to the plastic pollution problem. Consider taking reusable canvas bags to the grocer. Use cloth or mesh bags to carry fresh produce to the cashier.
• Choose products that have less plastic packaging whenever possible.
• When ordering a drink (even water) at a restaurant, tell the waiter not to bring a straw with it.
• Get in the habit of picking up plastic waste whenever you encounter it, especially around water sources like streams and ponds.
• Consider purchasing items made of natural fibers whenever possible.
• Get a reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic ones and throwing them away.
• Instead of throwing away old toys, furniture, clothes and electronics, consider donating them.
• Use dishes, glasses and metal silverware instead of disposable plastic.
• Save and reuse food containers that are durable rather than throwing them away.
• Use the Internet to research what the numbers inside the triangular recycle emblem on plastics mean. Not all of them are recyclable but you may be surprised at how many are. The numbering system was developed by the Society of The Plastics Industry (SPI), which is currently working to improve that system so it will be easier for consumers to know what can be recycled.
• Try to purchase products made from recycled environmental plastics whenever possible. This gives a financial reward incentive to those companies that engage in this method.
• Participate in organized efforts to clean up plastic and other waste pollution in your area.
More ways to “green up”
Plastic pollution is, of course, only one of many aspects to environmental improvement that consumers should address. Just a few more suggestions are:
• Turn off or unplug appliances when not in use to save on energy consumption.
• Learn more about the many materials that can be recycled, such as aluminum foil, batteries, milk cartons and empty paint cans. Check to see where your local facilities are that can handle liquid substances such as paint and lubricants.
• Walk or bike to your destination whenever possible. Car-pooling and public transportation are also important alternatives.
• Consider getting a home energy audit from your local utility company. It can save energy and save you money.
Earth Day is a great opportunity for consumers to reassess how they are treating our environment. Visit earthday.org for many more suggestions. You can also get help in your search for ways to be greener by contacting your Better Business Bureau at (800) 856-2417, or visit our website at bbbinc.org.