Plastic Free July Living In A Plastic Pandemic World
You might remember this time last year when Fossil Rim celebrated Plastic Free July, a month-long global movement to help refuse single-use plastic and choose plastic-free alternatives. However, last year there was not a global pandemic, which makes the 10th anniversary of this worldwide movement even more challenging! In the wake of Covid-19, there are new ways we can challenge ourselves to reduce plastic use.
Whether you are just getting started or are a seasoned pro, there is always a new alternative to any type of plastic. Natural Resources Management Specialist Vanessa Hays loves taking her reusable grocery bags to the store instead of using plastic bags, while Natural Resources Manager Caitlin Pyle takes her metal food containers to any restaurant in case she has leftover food to bring home instead of a plastic Styrofoam container. Going out to restaurants and providing your own grocery bags might be challenging as an individual during a pandemic. Fossil Rim has also experienced some difficulties since Covid-19 emerged as a threat.
Since our reopening to the public, the type of trash and litter we find at our facility has changed. The three biggest litter offenders at Fossil Rim in 2020 are:
1. Disposable straws and wrappers – especially drink pouch straws
2. Disinfecting wet wipes (moist towelette)
3. Disposable or reusable masks
During the past 10 years of Plastic Free July, the initiative’s messaging has been to focus on reducing, reusing, and refusing more than recycling. The logic behind this is reducing, reusing, and refusing are actions that we as individuals can take and be responsible for. Recycling is an industry dependent on many factors including, but not limited to, contamination levels in recycled items and consumers “recycling” unrecyclable items in hopes the company will recycle them anyway (this concept has been coined “hope-cycling”). Another huge factor many of us don’t take into consideration is the economic demand of the recycled material to produce goods.
Here are some Covid-19 Plastic Free July tips:
1. Ditch the disposable mask and invest in reusable cloth masks that you wash regularly.
2. Drive-through restaurants and ordering takeout have increased in popularity. If you are ordering food to-go, you can request no plastic utensils and wait until you are home and can use your own cutlery.
3. Reusable, washable bamboo towels are a great alternative to single-use paper towels. They are not as long-lasting as cloth towels, but do well to fulfill the function of paper towels in your home.
4. One alternative to purchasing disinfecting wet wipes is to make your own! All you need is a container (you could REUSE your current wipes container), paper towels or reusable washcloths, water, 70-91 percent rubbing alcohol, and Dawn-brand dish soap. Many of us likely have all of those items in our homes already! By doing a quick internet search, you can learn to make the wipes to suit your household’s needs.
This will likely come as a shock to you, but wet wipes and moist towelettes are made of plastic – not tissue! Wet wipes are usually made of polyester, a form of plastic that is often used in clothes because of its durability. Think of the immense negative impact of plastic-woven wet wipes that are being flushed into septic systems or tossed as litter.
Flushing the wipes labeled as “flushable” has harmful consequences on wastewater treatment plants and private septic systems. Sewer systems worldwide are being wrecked due to the plastic wet wipes that don’t break down in water systems; they clog pipes and septic tanks, plus they can destroy equipment that is responsible for cleaning our water. If you do use disposable wet wipes, please ensure you dispose of them properly in the trash can. #WipesClogPipes
WAYS YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE:
1. Reduce contamination in recycling bins: no food/drink waste, straws, grocery store bags, etc.
2. Do an internet search on your city’s name and recycling center to find out what your local facility can recycle and do not put anything else in the recycling bin. Common hope-cycled items include Styrofoam, coffee cups, glass, and other types of plastic. Plastic is differentiated by #1-#7.
3. Purchasing goods made from recycled materials is a great way to support the recycling industry. Companies will continue to purchase recycled material rather than virgin material if there is a market for it!
4. Properly dispose of wet wipes in trash cans and ensure they don’t fly out of cars, bags, or hands to become litter. Do NOT flush wet wipes in the toilet – it is not a trash can!
In the wake of Covid-19, it is important not to substitute one dominant plastic for another. Let’s all do our part in reducing plastic waste, picking up litter, and being thoughtful towards our environment. These are just a few Covid-19-inspired ways to create a more beautiful community with less waste and reduced plastic.
– If you want more information and will accept a challenge, visit PlasticFreeJuly.org.
– If you are interested in recycling in Texas, visit RecyclingStar.org to learn more about the nonprofit State of Texas Alliance for Recycling and its mission to advance recycling in Texas.
From your Fossil Rim Natural Resources ladies – Caitlin and Vanessa – Happy Plastic Free July!