Updated: Feb 20, 2021
By: Cheyenne Whisenhunt & Susie George
Single-use plastics are a cornerstone of modern society. Since its inception, plastic has been a popular choice for packaging and production of all sorts due to its cheap cost and what is viewed as convenience. While it may seem convenient to the consumer, it is well known that plastic is anything but favorable for the planet.
The Strain of Plastic Production
To most people today, plastic use seems second nature. However, plastic production itself has only been around for just over a century. According to a 2019 study, half of all plastics ever manufactured have been produced within only the previous 15 years, revealing an increasing dependence on this material. Nearly all plastics are produced of chemicals derived from non-renewable resources, including oil, natural gas, and coal. If the world continues on this trajectory, the plastic industry alone will account for 20% of the world’s oil consumption.
Problems with Plastic Disposal
Since the 1950s, around 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide. Recyclability is often cited in defense of this excessive plastic use, however, only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled, 12% has been incinerated, and the remaining 79% has gone to landfills or into our natural environment. While preferable to the landfill, the plastic recycling process is still not ideal as it is energy intensive, costly, and a widely unavailable service in many areas.
Most plastic takes hundreds of years to naturally decompose. In the meantime, it is continually breaking down into smaller pieces where it is consumed by wildlife, and even ingested through our water sources as well as the air we breathe. Around 700 species, including those that are now classified as endangered, are affected by plastics, which impacts entire ecosystems. The best way to prevent this is by avoiding plastic in the first place. The second best way is to reuse as much plastic as possible to prevent the environmental dangers of plastic waste, and that’s exactly what Branching Together sets out to do.
Saving Waste from Landfills
As a small business, Branching Together prevents plastic waste by collecting plastic heavy 5-gallon buckets from a local bakery, cleaning them, and completely repurposing them into high-quality functional products. Upcycling waste not only allows us to provide unique products to help you live more sustainably, it also enables local businesses to reroute their waste, saving a large amount of plastic waste from ever entering landfills in the first place.
There are easy ways to reuse plastic waste in your home as well, such as by saving and reusing plastic food containers for food or item storage. Though the plastic problem may seem daunting, work toward taking small steps each day to reduce and reuse plastic waste. Branching Together provides resources, in addition to products, to help you learn more about how to reduce and reuse plastic. There are also many other helpful resources out there that can help spark some creative ideas that may help you on your path to plastic elimination. Plastic is and will remain produced at a large rate, but it is possible to do your part by reducing plastic waste at the source through personal living and purchasing habits. Best of luck to you on your plastic prevention journey!
As always, remember that the small changes you make have a big impact in the long run :)
- Emma, Chey, and Susie