5 Reasons to Feel Hopeful About the World’s Plastic Problem

There’s a lot to be concerned about when it comes to the environment. It seems there’s always a new news story about a turtle that was caught with a stomach full of plastic, or how making clothing out of recycled plastic bottles isn’t as great as it sounds.

It's easy to feel a sense of helplessness. It can seem like the people of the world don’t really care about fixing this horrible plastic problem that we have created. And, when no one else is doing anything about the problem, it seems silly to be just one person carrying reusable bags into the grocery store.

It’s true that there’s a lot more to do to get our plastic problem under control, but you might be surprised at just how much progress society has already made.

Here are five reasons to have hope that we’ll take care of our plastic problem sooner rather than later.

Plastic bag bans and taxes are becoming the norm

Single use plastic bags are devastating to the environment. Not only do they look like jellyfish floating around in the ocean, which causes them to be eaten by sea turtles, they’re clogging our landfills. They’re such a huge problem because they get used for just a few minutes to a few hours, then then most get thrown in the garbage, even though they are recyclable.

The good news is that plastic bag bans and taxes are becoming the norm. Multiple states, including California, Hawaii, and New York have banned plastic bags. Multiple cities have banned or enacted fees on plastic bags too, including Chicago, Seattle, and Boston. In 2019, state lawmakers have introduced at least 95 bills related to plastic bags, so they are getting the attention they deserve.

Plastic straws are getting harder to find

Like plastic bags, plastic straws make life much more convenient. Unlike plastic bags, plastic straws cannot be recycled. That’s what makes them such an insidious problem.

Companies are taking notice of this problem and doing something about it. Starbucks will be getting rid of all its straws by 2020, while McDonalds now uses paper straws in their UK restaurants.

State and city governments are doing things to reduce or eliminate plastic straw waste too. California has taken steps to reduce straw waste, while Seattle not only bans plastic straws, they have banned all plastic utensils from businesses.

Scotland has outlawed plastic-stemmed cotton buds

Plastic you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about is getting attention too. Like plastic straws, there’s no way to recycle those little plastic stems from cotton bud swabs. It’s the norm to see them floating in waterways and washed up on beaches.

Johnson and Johnson has replaced their plastic buds with paper ones in Europe, while Scotland has banned them altogether. The supermarket chain Waitrose estimates to have eliminated 21 tons of plastic with this one policy alone.

Marriot is giving up those little plastic bottles of shampoo

It’s fun to collect those little bottles of shampoo and lotion from hotels, but what happens to the bottles when you’re done using them? Like most things, they end up in the trash, and there’s a lot of those little bottles to go around!

Marriot is banning those little plastic bottles from their hotel chains by the end of 2020. That's a big deal because it's the world's largest hotel chain. It estimates that it will be able to eliminate 500 million small bottles from entering the landfill every year.

Zero-waste grocery stores are catching on

There’s a lot of plastic at the grocery store. In an effort to get rid of all that plastic packaging, some grocery stores are zero-waste, and they’re gaining in popularity. Instead of purchasing items in plastic containers, you bring your own reusable containers. It’s a lot like the health food section of your local grocery store where you can buy items in bulk, except you can buy in bulk throughout the entire grocery store!

Remember when milk was delivered to your door in reusable glass bottles? If you don’t, your grandparents might. There’s a resurgence in this service too, which greatly reduces the use of single use plastic milk bottles!

Any one of these efforts isn’t enough on their own, but combined, and with other policies and trends that are on the horizon, we really are making a difference. Keep doing your part by keeping a reusable straw, reusable canvas bags, and a reusable cup sleeve in your purse. Every little bit really does help!