Today is National Recycling Day, but contrary to popular belief, recycling is not the solution to plastic pollution!
Most plastics we use cannot be recycled. Even recycled plastic cannot be reprocessed infinitely, which means the plastic will end up in landfill eventually. Greenwashing, which makes a non-solution like recycling seem good for the environment, is a common tactic corporations use to evade accountability for the plastic waste they create so they can continue to produce it.
As for compostables, 5 billion trees are cut down every year, which is 1,712,329 trees cut down every hour. Compostable packaging isn’t as renewable as we thought, and we are buying right into the problem because it, too, is being greenwashed.
‘Compostable’ plastic doesn’t actually compost well and it, along with other plastic foodware, is often coated in known carcinogens called PFAS. These toxins spill into the ocean and leach into the earth, contaminating the food we eat and wreaking havoc on marine life. If landfills, giant garbage patches across the sea, and tainted food aren’t enough reasons to care about the plastic problem, I don’t know what is.
Because of the threat single-use plastics pose to the health and safety of the next generation and the environment, the Berkeley Heirs have made it their mission to minimize single-use plastics! We’ve helped pass a dining ordinance in Berkeley that charges $0.25 for plastic cutlery rather than providing it for free with every meal. The idea is to raise awareness that some single-use choices we make are avoidable. We’ve also lobbied our local school board to get the district to ditch disposables for school lunches in favor of reusable metal cutlery. The idea is off to a promising start, as the district is looking into funding and hiring someone to wash the cutlery.
Plastic pollutes in all ways, from the greenhouse gas emissions when it is created, to the waste left behind in our oceans, and the toxic chemicals leaching into our earth and bodies. So as a last thought, I would urge you to minimize the harm that plastics have on our environment and on us in any way possible, like carrying with you reusable cutlery.