Plastic consumption has seen a surge amidst the Covid-19 pandemic with no end in sight. Besides the increase in single-use protective gear for individuals and healthcare workers, stores in many states have prohibited customers to bring their own reusable bags and previous bans have been paused or put on an indefinite hold. Food delivery has spiked significantly with an increase in the usage of plastic bags and utensils and large coffee shop chains like Starbucks have prohibited customers to bring their own reusable mugs. The plastic industry seems to be taking advantage of the Covid-19 emergency to push its own agenda.
The largest volume of plastic found in the oceans comes from single-use plastic consumption, accounting for near 50% of all plastic. A somber outline shows that in the next decade, plastic production could increase another 40%, bringing us to a near-permanent contamination of earth. It can take 450 years for a plastic bottle to decompose in the ocean.
We have been self-isolating since early March with very limited essential trips only. Our outside exposure has consisted of going out to run twice a week, walking with the kids, or taking our dog for short-distance potty walks. On Earth Day, we decided to take the kids to help us collect some garbage from our neighborhood, since other planned events were cancelled. We live in a nice neighborhood in Seattle – it seems our neighbors make an effort to keep the lawn and gardens in good shape and things generally look clean, but we were shocked to discover what we collected after just walking 4-5 blocks near our house.
This discovery pushed us to go out to collect trash at least once a week in our neighborhood. For about $10 each, we bought trash grabbers on Amazon that make the process a little easier, safer, and the kids more excited to help.
In our second trip, we saw a similar amount of trash. There were at least 2lbs of garbage on the streets that, as I explained to my 4 and 6 year-old kids, “would have been in a turtle belly otherwise”!
We have been taking steps for a while to reduce our plastic consumption and recycling plastic items that the city waste management wouldn’t accept (think about food plastic wraps, toothpaste, plastic bags, etc). Besides having our own to-go fabric grocery bags, we have also installed our own home composter to reduce the amount of plastic bags we use in the bathroom.
With such a tremendous increase in plastic consumption in a time when we should be reducing it to almost zero, besides consuming less and recycling more, a simple thing anyone can do is just picking it up.
How does plastic end up in the ocean?