We're Leaving Our Kids A Plastic-Filled Garbage Dump If We Don't Change Our Habits, ASAP

by Ashley Austrew

Jeff Bridges’ video about the environmental effects of plastic will shock you

Plastic cups, plastic utensils, plastic bags — a quick glance around the average American household will tell you one thing: we are plastic addicts. Americans throw away roughly 88,000 tons of plastic each and every day, and a disturbing new video by the Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC) shows our kids are going to have a pretty serious mess to clean up if we don’t change our ways.

In a video posted on Facebook, the PPC enlists actor Jeff Bridges to outline the shocking realities of our plastic consumption. For example, we use 17 million barrels of oil each year making plastic water bottles — that’s enough to power a million cars. Also, the ocean contains 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile. And — how’s this for heartbreaking — plastic pieces on the ocean’s surface outnumber sea life six to one. Check out all the horrifying stats for yourself:

Most disturbing is the fact that plastic sticks around forever. According to the PPC website, 33 percent of plastic is used once and thrown away. Even when we toss empty water bottles into the recycling bin, we’re not doing as much good as we think. There’s simply too much plastic, and we produce more every single day. Warns Bridges:

“Every bit of plastic that has ever been created still exists. What happens to plastic after you use it? Well, most of it goes into landfills. A portion gets in the water course and eventually ends up in the oceans. Recycling is not a sustainable solution; it’s actually called downcycling because plastic never goes away.”

As parents, plastic is a huge part of our lives. It’s used in everything from sippy cups to diapers, toys, pacifiers, and snack packaging. Some of it’s unavoidable, but we’re also accustomed to the proliferation of plastic kid items, and we tend to choose them even when they’re unnecessary. How many of us have plastic utensils for our kids when they could just as easily use metal? How many of us use plastic straws and plastic cups? I know I do.

Plastic is durable and kids can’t easily hurt themselves with it. That makes it convenient, and in the trenches of parenting, sometimes convenience is all we care about. Still, it doesn’t hurt to consider the consequences of our consumption. With each small convenience, we’re creating a world full of landfills and polluted waterways. One day our kids might go to the beach and swim in a literal sea of plastic. That’s kind of depressing to think about.

Obviously we’re not going to eliminate all plastic use overnight, but Bridges and the PPC offer some common sense solutions if you’re interested in reducing your reliance on disposable plastic:

1. Choose reusable when you can. Get reusable bags, reusable straws, use glass or metal containers to store leftovers and hold snacks. I actually love reusable shopping bags because they hold so much more stuff. Making fewer trips to bring groceries in is good for this lazy mom.

2. Refuse plastic when it’s unnecessary. Say no to straws, don’t take a bag if you don’t really need one, and don’t buy things that come in excessive plastic packaging — like four oranges stuffed in a plastic container.

3. Recycle. It may not be a sustainable way to eliminate all plastic, but it’s still a good thing to do. As the PPC puts it on their website, “what you can’t refuse, reduce or reuse.” Pay attention to the life cycle of products and try to avoid just chunking plastic items into the trash.

It’s overwhelming to think about the amount of plastic waste we create each day, but we made this mess one plastic package at a time. We can clean it up that way too.