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Reducing Plastic as a Family Is Easy. Here’s How

It’s no secret that the world, on land and in the seas, is awash in plastics, with about 8.8. million tons of plastic trash flowing into the oceans alone every year. No matter where it lands, though, whether in mountainous dumps of garbage or in the bodies of wildlife unfortunate enough to mistake it as food, plastic has become a concern that needs addressing, now. National Geographic offers ways that you and your family can help reduce plastic waste, from carrying your own reusable straws to restaurants to ordering ice cream in a cone instead of in a cup with a plastic spoon. Opting for reusable bottles and lunch bags, and even helping to pick up trash in the community are other ways to help.

While some people may wonder why simple little plastic straws are such a big concern, perhaps if I told them our bodies are literally becoming plastic they would listen up. The truth is plastic has become such a disposable issue that large quantities of it in the form of microplastics are now found in 83 percent of tap water samples — and single-use plastics such as soda and water bottles, plastic containers and dinnerware, along with drinking straws and even potato chip bags are all contributors to this contamination.

All told, the world produces about 299 million tons of plastic annually, and it’s estimated that if something doesn’t change, by 2050 our oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight. This is why it’s so important for every person and every family to take plastic pollution seriously. As the featured article suggests, a good start is to not use it in the first place.

Using reusable shopping totes is one simple way to eliminate half a dozen shopping bags or more for each trip to the store. Properly recycling plastics and, better yet, opting for items that are not sold in plastic containers is a great move, including refusing straws and bottled water, and using refillable bottles and coffee mugs.

It’s also helpful to know that when it comes to recycling, you need to remember that not everything recycles. For example, if you’ve ever placed your recyclables in a plastic bag, know that none of those items actually were recycled. The reason for this is that municipal recycling facilities typically cannot recycle plastic bags. They simply get caught in the machines and cause damage. And, if you put your recyclables into closed trash bags, the recycling facility will NOT open them. They simple don’t have time for that.

They also cannot tell whether the bag might contain hazardous materials that might contaminate other recyclables, such as soiled diapers or food scraps. Instead, the bag, with all of its recyclable content, will simply get transferred to a landfill.

So, to ensure your recyclables actually get recycled, make sure you place the items loose in your recycle bin. If you have to carry the items in a bag to your bin, dump them in and use the bag for your regular trash can. A simple strategy to avoid this is to keep a separate bin in your kitchen just for recyclables. When full, carry it to your recycle bin and dump the contents.

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