With celebrating July 4th comes a lot of things: barbecues, fireworks, American flags, and especially trash. As one of the busiest days of the year for haulers and vendors alike, the amount of waste produced on Independence Day is a close second only behind the day after Christmas. In order to fulfill your patriotic duty, there are several small actions you can take to both help our haulers and whittle down your waste. There are easy alternatives to help keep your soiree sustainable. With the use of reusable or compostable plates and silverware, asking guests to bring containers to minimize food waste, and having recycling receptacles with proper signage; you can do your part in both saving and celebrating our great nation!

No matter how environmentally friendly you are this holiday, chances are you still encounter a hefty amount of plastic in your everyday life. From toothbrushes and clothes hangers to water bottles and plastic bags, the world is already full of plastic, and more is produced daily.

According to the UN Environment Assembly, more than 8 million metric tons of plastic leak into the ocean each year. To put this into perspective Jenna Jambeck, Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering in the University of Georgia’s College of Engineering, explains 8 million metric tons as: “The equivalent to finding five grocery bags full of plastic on every foot of coastline in 192 countries.” (The 192 countries have coastlines on the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, and the Mediterranean and Black seas.)

If plastics continue to make their way into the oceans at this rate, the World Economic Forum predicts there will be more plastic in the oceans and seas than fish by 2050. While many countries are urging elected officials to address this pressing issue there are steps you can take now to lessen the plastic impact overall.

Here are 5 best practices for reduction to stem the plastic tide:

1. Be Mindful of Plastic Packaging

Single-use and disposable plastic packaging have a general use of 10 minutes or less. A truly short utility considering most plastics will be around long after its users are gone.

Here are simple ways to eliminate excess packaging:

#StopSucking: Ditching plastic straws is a great first step to eliminating excess plastic in your life. If a straw has to be used, purchase a reusable one.

Be Square: Opt for products in recyclable boxes or cardboard containers rather than bottles. Example: laundry detergent.

Buy in Bulk: The bulk bins at the grocery store are great plastic killers. When you buy foods such as cereal, pasta, or nuts, and put them in a reusable container you eliminate plastic packaging and save money.

Be Drink and Food Prepared: With the wide variety of reusable glass and stainless steel beverage and food containers surrounding us, there is really no reason to opt for a single use container.

Eat Fresh: Staying out of the frozen food section is a great way to avoid plastic packaging. This is not only eco-conscious but also a way to eat healthily! 

2. Always Keep a Reusable Bag Handy

Globally, more than one billion bags are used every minute. For reference, there were 525,600 minutes in 2017. Just in case you haven’t done the math, that is an excessive amount of plastic bags.

To address this bag epidemic Study.com has reported these countries as having banned plastic bags either entirely or having opted to tax their use:

  • 15 African Countries
  • Asia
  • Australia
  • 5 European Countries
  • North America

While North America has been slow on the plastic bag issue Canada and Mexico have begun to address the issue. In the United States there are many states who have instituted bans, taxes, or special recycling programs:

  • California (first to ban plastic bags and charge for paper)
  • Hawaii
  • District of Columbia
  • Seattle
  • Maine
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Puerto Rico

See the complete list at Study.com.On a personal level… Do your part – use reusable bags when you shop!

3. Avoid Microbeads in Plastic

These plastic particles can be found in a wide variety of beauty products, from body scrub to toothpaste, and are nearly always being washed down the drain. This, and the fact that microbeads are great for absorbing toxic pollutants is why they have such a direct environmental impact.

So how does this affect humans?

A Plymouth University Study found plastic in one-third of all the fish caught in the United Kingdom. Remember the toxic absorption that was just mentioned? Microbeads are officially introducing toxic plastic to the fish that eat them, the animals that eat the fish, and eventually the humans at the top of the food chain.

The microbead problem is gaining worldwide attention. France, New Zealand, Sweden, and Taiwan have all implemented a ban on the import and manufacture of microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics.

4. Plastic Recycling

One of the main reasons plastics can’t be recycled is because they are tainted going into the process. Follow these best practices to make sure you are recycling plastics the right way.

Wash your plastics after use: The cleaner your recyclable plastic items are the easier they will be to recycle.

Learn your area guidelines for plastics: Being educated is the best way to make sure you aren’t making the process more difficult for recyclers with non-recyclables.

Be a Savvy Consumer: If there is a plastic your area can’t recycle try to eliminate it from your purchases.

5. Demand your government takes action

We can all do our part to help eliminate plastic pollution but getting government support through policy can be a powerful tool. Make your voice heard by engaging your elected officials to target plastic pollution.

One less plastic bag and one strong voice can make a difference.

Read our complete step-by-step guide to implementing a successful waste and recycling program.