This past week commemorated the 30th celebration of Pollution Prevention Week, a week focused on educating and mobilizing government agencies, industries, and individuals to play their part in reducing and preventing pollution. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines pollution prevention as “reducing or eliminating waste at the source.” By targeting pollution at its source, less energy and resources are spent in the management and disposal of pollution. Though most of the burden of this source reduction falls on industries and government agencies, individuals can take meaningful steps to reduce pollution at home.
One step we can take is to reduce the amount of trash we are generating. On average, a single person generated 4.51 pounds of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), otherwise known as trash, per day in 2017 which amounts to about 1,700 pounds of trash generated in a single year. The total amount of trash generated in the United States in 2017 was 267.8 million tons, a number that rises each year. Plastic products represented 13.2% of the 267.8 million tons of trash generated, the second highest category of trash produced after paper and paperboard (25%).
Plastic waste poses a serious environmental threat for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed region, as some of this plastic makes its way into our local waterways and eventually into the Bay. Wildlife can be entangled by or ingest plastic, which can ultimately lead to starvation and death. Beyond presenting a direct physical danger to wildlife, plastic products contain or carry several different chemical components, some of which are toxic and slow to degrade. The physical and chemical impacts of plastic pollution lead to weakened ecosystems and waters that are not safe to swim or fish in. However, there are several small but significant steps we can take to protect the health of our communities and increase the quality of local streams and rivers.
One way we can help cut down on plastic pollution is to reduce our use of plastic. Below are a few of the ways we can cut down on our use of plastic products.
- Bring your own cloth bags to the [store]
- Go to the farmer’s market and purchase fresh fruits and veggies (not packaged in plastic)
- Clean with baking soda and vinegar instead of cleaners packaged in plastic
- Store all your food in glass containers. If you purchase something bottled in glass, clean it and reuse it!
- Compost your trash, reduce your use of plastic trash bags
The ideas above are just a few small steps you can take to generate less plastic waste. The full list of tips and ideas from Reef Relief can be found here.