This article was updated on July 3rd, 2021.
Happy July 3rd, my friends! Yes, it’s already July if you can believe it. With the seventh month of the year comes picnics, water lilies, Plastic Free July, Independence Day in the US, and some of the warmest temperatures of the year. But this month is very important for another reason… today it’s International Plastic Bag Free Day! International Plastic Free Bag Day is a global initiative that actively tries to eliminate the use of plastic bags, which takes 1,000 years to degrade in a landfill.
With the plastic crisis at full speed, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic generated a dramatic spike in the global use of plastic, we must all commit to live a life free of plastic. The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) says that 3.4 billion single-use face masks and shields are used each day during the pandemic.
Plastic is a cheap resource with multiple uses, and at the same time, in recent years, plastic has become an enormous problem for the environment. Plastic Oceans estimates that approximately 50 percent of plastic is used only once, then gets thrown away. Plastic bags are the perfect example of this practice. In fact, Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, which requires 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture, according to Waste Management (W.M.), the largest collector of recyclable materials from businesses and households in the U.S. and Canada.
The problem with plastic bags is that it takes many years to decompose, but once left under sunlight without proper disposal, the substances generated trigger pollution, posing dangerous effects on human and animal health.
Plastic pollution crowds our coastlines, waterways, streets, and landfills. A plastic accumulation in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii has congregated into a patch of 1.8 trillion plastic pieces known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Everything from microplastics in cleansers and clothing to contacts improperly disposed of can make their way into polluting our ecosystems.
“Every day approximately 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into the oceans,” according to Surfers Against Sewage. This leads to the annual death of around 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 1 million sea birds. These statistics seem really overwhelming. But instead of allowing the gravity of the problem to intimidate us into inaction, we should be motivated to start now.
This International Plastic Bag Free Day, you can start with small steps. Stop using plastic for a day. Little by little, you can make this a practice that lasts longer than just a day. Also, Plastic Free July provides many ways to get started eliminating plastics in daily life. One of the best ways to get involved is by participating in the Plastic Free July challenge, where tips, tricks, and stories are sent straight into your inbox to inspire daily behavioral changes.
Check out the Plastic Pollution Coalition, a global alliance of over 1,200 organizations and businesses in 75 countries, Open Your Eyes video, narrated by Jeff Bridges. Finally, even though we aren’t in our offices or schools right now, you can still spread the word! The Plastic Free Foundation provides resources specifically for offices, homes, schools, and communities. There are also specific topic-based pages focused on specific areas we can limit plastic use in our daily lives through buying less, changing habits, and decorating and gifting with the Earth in mind.
What steps will you take to eliminate the use of plastic? Every action helps, and today is a good day to get started.