World Environment Day was on 5th June and there are many videos circulating on Facebook, Whatsapp and many other social media platforms on the extent of plastic pollution on land and in the sea. This video was particularly shocking- plastic waste have been found covering the ocean several miles wide. This leaves the poor fishes and marine life to fend for themselves, swimming in a sea of garbage.
As a consequence, turtles and fishes become victims and it is no wonder that postmortem found their stomachs filled with plastic bags and indigestible materials. These animals are innocent, it is difficult for them to differentiate which is food and which are not. My heart breaks whenever I read such news.
I have used my own bags when shopping, brought my own container for takeaways and sorted out my waste for recycling for many years now. Unfortunately this is not enough. Recently the news reported that a higher percentage of plastic waste in Singapore will be incinerated instead of being recycled once China stops importing plastic for recycling.
I personally witnessed this when I was jogging at East Coast Park during the weekend. Plastic pollution is REAL!
To mitigate this, all of us must pledge to use less plastic. These are some of my suggestions:
1) Bring your own containers and mug when buying take-away. If everyone in office/school brings their own containers, can you imagine how much polystyrene/ plastic boxes/plastic cups we can reduce in a day? While we all like the convenience of not carrying containers around, let's make a conscious effort to care for the environment and our pockets (some stalls charge 20 to 50 cents more for the boxes).
2) Stop using single-use straws! I understand that drinking iced coffee/soda is difficult without a straw as the ice cubes get in the way and hurt sensitive front teeth, why not bring your own straw? There are some nice, reusable, sturdy stainless steel straws around.
3) Only buy new clothes when it is necessary. Keeping up with the latest trends is not sustainable, as more and more clothing materials are made from plastic- check the tags on your clothes and you will find words like polyester, nylon, acrylic, spandex, elastane. If the current wardrobe is boring, we can add trendy embellishments, or alter the clothes to change its design to give them a new zest of life. Flea markets are also great for getting pre-loved clothes at a bargain. Wearing renewed clothes because you care for the environment is trendy!
4) Decline plastic bags if we are buying one or 2 items which can be carried by hand. For bigger shopping trips we can bring our own reusable shopping bags. Little steps go a long way, if one buys items from 5 shops during a day and declines bags from every shop, he/she would have saved 5 or more bags!
5) When travelling, hotels provide little bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, body lotion, shower cap, toothbrushes. Yes, these have been paid for as they are already included in the room rate, but are they really necessary? If every guest takes all of the items, the hotel staff will have to replenish them again the next day. How many small plastic bottles would one hotel have used if it has 200 rooms? And multiply that with the number of hotels we have.
This is something to think about before taking the toiletries from the hotel- will you truly enjoy using the shower gel after you have brought it home, or would it be left on the shelf unused and discarded several years later?
It would be good too if hotels provide common water dispensers for guests to refill their own water bottles, instead of giving 2 bottles of water per room every day.
In order to preserve and care for our environment, it is not merely a one person's job but a collaborative effort of every human on this planet. Our actions today will affect how the world turns out tomorrow, so start now!