The COVID-19 pandemic may dominate much of our lives right now, but it doesn’t have to dominate our waste stream!
We’re inviting you to join the Plastic Purge and free yourself (and maybe a few friends or family) from several single-use plastics for the week of March 8 – 14. This is a great way to start reducing plastics in your day-to-day and reduce the impact of the pandemic on our natural environment and landfills.
What is the Purge?
For 7 days, we’ll support you to be rid of the following single-use or short-lived plastics: disposable masks, take-out containers and cutlery, plastic bags, coffee or take-away drink cups, and straws. We’ll provide emails during the challenge, each with information on how to avoid particular items and tips and information to get you through. You’ll be supported by EL staff and able to ask questions or provide suggestions to help others on their journey. This is a great challenge for newbies to plastic reduction, or for those that have been at it for a while but maybe went a little…. ah, wayward, during the pandemic and need the motivation to get back on track. It’s also a great activity for schools or other groups to engage in during these challenging times.
If this sounds like your thing, sign-up today!
Single-use plastics – what are they?
Although it’s in the name, it can be hard to identify or recognize all of the single-use (or short-lived) plastics that are out there and that we consume on a daily basis. Everything from straws, to plastic wrap, to the plastic covering our fruits, vegetables, and meats. Plus, now there’s all the disposable PPE and increased use of take-out containers, packaging, and plastic bags as a result of COVID-19 precautions and lifestyle changes. Single-use plastic is everywhere and it’s hard to avoid and stay safe and healthy. That’s why we’re starting this challenge: to help us to focus on things we can control and bring awareness to the plastics we’re using and throwing away every day.
The problem of plastic pollution had been gaining attention across the world before the pandemic. According to the Canadian government, Canadians throw away over 3 million tonnes of plastic waste every year. That’s $8 billion of resources and energy that is lost and wasted each year! One-third of the plastics used in Canada are for single-use or short-lived products and packaging and, even though some of them can be recycled, less than 10% of plastic used in Canada actually gets recycled. While recycling is a great way to reduce what is going to the landfill, we can’t recycle ourselves out of all the plastic waste we produce. We must reduce our single-use plastic consumption and start using reusable options instead. Check out the Netflix series Broken and watch the Recycling Sham episode or this expose by CBC News to get an idea of why this is such a big problem and why we need to act now.
Now, understandably, fighting plastic pollution has taken a bit of a back seat to public health measures and recommendations to protect us. Unfortunately, lots of the measures have increased waste and the use of certain plastics we’d been shifting away from – a challenging case of two steps forward, one step backwards. As the pandemic continues, and with a lot of uncertainty around when it will end, we need take back the power and try to reduce plastic waste where we can to reduce the environmental impact of the pandemic for us and generations to come.
If you need some extra motivation to start this purge, do a waste audit to get a picture of what you’ll be saving from going into the landfill or recycling facility.