Choosing to refuse

Plastic Free July

Source:  Oceanic Society, State Representative Joseph Gresko (D) 121st Connecticut House District

Plastic Free July® is a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution – so we can have cleaner streets, oceans, and beautiful communities.

Will you be part of Plastic Free July by choosing to refuse single-use plastics?

Many people start the challenge by taking stock of the plastics in their life and choosing one or more items to avoid.  Some people simply look in the fridge, pantry or waste bin, while others choose to do a thorough bin audit—an especially popular activity for schools and workplaces.

Whatever you decide, it is your Plastic Free July choice.  This year for Plastic Free July a handy calendar for participants with 31 Days of Plastic Free Choices which shares some popular ideas and switches to reduce plastic waste.  This helpful resource offers choices for people to consider throughout July—and beyond. (this calendar can be accessed at https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/)

The Ocean Plastic Pollution Problem

With skyrocketing plastic production, low levels of recycling and poor waste management, between 4 and 12 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean each year—enough to cover every foot of coastline on the planet! And that amount is projected to triple in the next 20 years. Let that sink in for a moment.

In the ocean, plastic pollution impacts sea turtles, whales, seabirds, fish, coral reefs, and countless other marine species and habitats. In fact, scientists estimate that more than half of the world’s sea turtles and nearly every seabird on Earth have eaten plastic in their lifetimes. Plastic pollution also mars otherwise beautiful beaches, coastlines, and snorkel and dive sites worldwide, even in remote areas such as Midway Atoll.

One of the reasons that plastic pollution is such a problem is that it doesn’t go away: “plastics are forever.” Instead, plastic debris simply breaks down into ever-smaller particles, known as microplastics, whose environmental impacts are still being determined.

Plastic Pollution Solutions: 7 Things You Can Do Today

Everyone can do something to help solve the plastic pollution problem, and millions of people worldwide are already taking action to reduce their plastic use. Here are seven ways you can make a difference, starting today.

  1. Reduce Your Use of Single-Use Plastics

Wherever you live, the easiest and most direct way that you can get started is by reducing your own use of single-use plastics. Single-use plastics include plastic bags, water bottles, straws, cups, utensils, dry cleaning bags, take-out containers, and any other plastic items that are used once and then discarded.

The State of Connecticut banned the use single use check-out plastic bags on July 1, 2021.

The best way to do this is by a) refusing any single-use plastics that you do not need (e.g. straws, plastic bags, takeout utensils, takeout containers), and b) purchasing, and carrying with you, reusable versions of those products, including reusable grocery bags, produce bags, bottles, utensils, coffee cups, and dry cleaning garment bags. And when you refuse single-use plastic items, help businesses by letting them know that you would like them to offer alternatives.

  1. Support Legislation to Curb Plastic Production and Waste

As important as it is to change our individual behaviors, such changes alone are insufficient to stop ocean plastic pollution. We also need legislation that reduces plastic production, improves waste management, and makes plastic producers responsible for the waste they generate. There are a variety of ways that you can support local, national, and international legislation that provide critical solutions to reduce plastic pollution. One such effort in the United States is the 2021 Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, a comprehensive federal bill that aims to address the plastic pollution crisis, and there are a number of state level initiatives to introduce extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation that makes plastic producers and distributors responsible for their products and packaging at the end of life.

At the international level, hundreds of organizations and businesses are calling on the United Nations to enact a global plastics treaty that would set global rules and regulations that would reduce plastic pollution. And legislation that limits, taxes, or bans unnecessary single use plastic items, such as plastic bags, takeout containers, and bottles, has been successfully enacted in many places globally, and you can support the adoption of such policies in your community too. Here is a comprehensive resource and toolkit on legislative approaches to limiting plastic bags, foodware, microplastics, and more.

Connecticut presently has a ban on BPA’s in plastic water bottles. In January, 2023, a bottle bill expansion will go into effect with sports drinks, iced teas, additional alcoholic beverages containers will all have a deposit, which will increase to a 10 cent deposit in 2024.

  1. Recycle Properly

This should go without saying, but when you use single-use (and other) plastics that can be recycled, always be sure to recycle them. At present, just 9% of plastic is recycled worldwide. Recycling helps keep plastics out of the ocean and reduces the amount of “new” plastic in circulation. If you need help finding a place to recycle plastic waste near you, check Earth 911’s recycling directory. It’s also important to check with your local recycling center about the types of plastic they accept.

Presently in the State of Connecticut Recycling statewide is about 30% with Redemption of bottles with deposits is around 50%.

  1. Participate In (or Organize) a Beach or River Cleanup

Stratford has an annual river cleanup (Housatonic River Clean Up) which removes plastics.  This is one of the most direct and rewarding ways to fight ocean plastic pollution. You can simply go to the beach or waterway and collect plastic waste on your own or with friends or family, or you can join a local organization’s cleanup or an international event like the International Coastal Cleanup, or join and work with the Housatonic River Clean Up.  You can follow the organization on their Facebook page.

Also Beach/River cleanups were held this year by  Long Beach Cleanup with Two Roads Brewing and supporting local restaurants;  Lordship Community Cleanup.  Mark your calendar, as on October 9th there will be a Stratford Community cleanup at Short and Long Beach.

  1. Avoid Products Containing Microbeads

Tiny plastic particles, called “microbeads,” have become a growing source of ocean plastic pollution in recent years. Microbeads are found in some face scrubs, toothpastes, and bodywashes, and they readily enter our oceans and waterways through our sewer systems, and affect hundreds of marine species. Avoid products containing plastic microbeads by looking for “polythelene” and “polypropylene” on the ingredient labels of your cosmetic products (find a list of products containing microbeads here).

  1. Spread the Word

Stay informed on issues related to plastic pollution and help make others aware of the problem. Tell your friends and family about how they can be part of the solution, or host a viewing party for one of the many plastic pollution focused documentaries, like A Plastic Ocean, Garbage Island: An Ocean Full of Plastic, Bag It, Addicted to Plastic, Plasticized, or Garbage Island.

  1. Support Organizations Addressing Plastic Pollution

There are many non-profit organizations working to reduce and eliminate ocean plastic pollution in a variety of different ways, including Oceanic Society, Plastic Pollution Coalition, 5 Gyres, Algalita, Plastic Soup Foundation, and others. These organizations rely on donations from people like you to continue their important work. Even small donations can make a big difference!

These seven ideas only scratch the surface for ways you can help address the growing problem of plastic pollution in the oceans. The important thing is that we all do something, no matter how small. For more ideas and resources, sign up to join our Blue Habits community of people worldwide committed to joyful daily actions that improve ocean health: oceanicsociety.org

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