It’s hard to deny that plastic makes life a little easier. Where would we be without the straw in our drink or the plastic cups at our parties? The fact is, while we’re temporarily enjoying the ease of plastic, it will keep the Earth company for far longer— up to 1,000 years to be exact. According to Ecowatch, 25 percent of total landfill weight is plastic that, for the most part, could have been recycled.
Valley understands that using plastic is unavoidable and that recycling some forms of plastic is difficult, especially when you live off-campus. So, what are we supposed to do? The key is to reduce frivolous plastic use by getting in the habit of living without it. Valley has four plastic items that you can reduce right now.
Chances are, you’ve used a plastic straw this week— maybe even today. What else are you supposed to sip your much-needed iced coffee or the-too-delicious-to-resist smoothie with? Plastic straws are so common that in the US alone, 500 million single-use straws are used single day. Plastic straws can rarely be recycled and most end up in landfills, littered on roadsides or in the oceans. (FYI: Every straw you’ve ever used is still sitting in a landfill!)
If you want to tell plastic straws to “suck it!” why not invest in a cute reusable straw from Etsy or Simply Straws? By using a metal or glass straw, you’ll avoid using and throwing away the roughly 584 straws we individually use each year. Perhaps even better than reusable straws is just saying no to them all together; your drink will taste the same without it.
The skinny relative of the straw is the plastic drink stirrer. Although you look pretty posh stirring half-and-half into your coffee with one of these, Valley thinks a metal utensil is a better choice. Compostable wooden stirrers are an acceptable alternative to plastic stirrers, however, not using these guys at all is the best option for the environment.
No washing, no problem. Admittedly, it doesn’t get more convenient than plastic utensils. When we’re hungry and just want a quick salad, the last thing on our mind is the utensil we poke the lettuce with. Although recyclable on campus, plastic utensils often end up in the regular garbage anyways, contributing to the amount of plastic piling up in the landfill.
A simple alternative to plastic utensils is investing in a travel set of reusable utensils for the price of a meal at Panera (whose restaurants, by the way, don’t use plastic utensils either).
Ah, yes. The good ol’ red Solo cup. This plastic friend is tricky to avoid, especially at Penn State. Yes, Toby Keith was right: “A red Solo cup is cheap and disposable.” But, he was a little off when he sang: “In 14 years they are decomposable.” More like 50-100 years, Toby.
One way to reduce the use of plastic cups is to not use multiples. We’ve all set down our cup somewhere and forgotten almost immediately which crinkled Solo cup is our crinkled Solo cup, so we grab a fresh one— leading to more plastic waste at the end of the night. Hosting a party or a tailgate? Bring a permanent marker so everyone can identify their cups. It’ll save you money, too, since you won’t need to buy a new package of cups every weekend. Proceed to party.
Simply put, there is too much plastic in landfills and oceans. Luckily, reducing single-use plastic isn’t difficult, plus it gives us opportunities to buy cute straws or utensils. Make plastic a problem of the past; Valley challenges you to learn to live without as much plastic. Or, at the very least, recycle it!