Do your part this #PlasticFreeJuly

Plastic is everywhere. It’s in everyday packaging, electronics, toys, skincare products and clothes. It can even get into your food and drinks.

This #PlasticFreeJuly, FIU Institute of Environment researchers share tips on how to reduce plastic consumption. 

BYOB – Bring Your Own Bag/Bottle

BYOB to grocery stores and refuse plastic bags at restaurant locations and shopping centers. Purchase a reusable water bottle for everyday use. 

Piero Gardinali, director of the institute’s Freshwater Resources Division, explains buying one-off items like drinks in plastic bottles should be switched out for better alternatives.

“The cap separates from the body and they all come in a plastic wrapper ring,” Gardinali said. “While some bottles can be recycled, the ifs around appropriate recycling of these items are so many that it’s not worth it. Aluminum cans have an endless life cycle and, when purchased in bulk, come in a recyclable carboard box.”

Microplastics – Photo courtesy Steven Landeweer

Steer clear of “microbeads”

These tiny plastic beads are present in many face scrubs, body wash products and even toothpaste. They end up in the ocean, absorb toxins and are ingested by marine animals causing illness or death. Thankfully, the U.S. banned these microplastics from being used in personal care products in 2017. However, microbeads can still be used for other purposes such as sandblasting and landscaping fill. It’s always good to ask if products used in your home projects contain these harmful materials so you can opt to avoid them.

Give up gum

Most chewing gum today is made of synthetic rubber, which is plastic-based and does not biodegrade. Imagine how much gum is improperly disposed of or even accidentally swallowed.

Paper not plastic

Forgo plastic altogether, advises Steven Landeweer, a Ph.D. student in the institute who studies microplastics in the ocean. Try buying paper products and products that come in cardboard packaging instead of the plastic alternatives.

“You don’t really think about it, but between utensils, straws, lids, containers and bags, that’s a lot of plastic or non-recyclable waxy cardboard. It’s used once and thrown away,” Landeweer said. “Making food at home uses a lot less plastic, so that’s a good quarantine habit to keep.” 

Volunteer to clean up plastics

Unlike other waste, plastic does not decompose. Instead, it sticks around for centuries wreaking havoc on natural environments and wildlife. Eventually, these plastics end up washing out into the ocean. Volunteering for citizen science initiatives or beach clean-ups can keep single-use plastics out of the environment.

Opt for natural fiber clothing

Look at items that may not be considered harmful, advises Melinda Paduani, a Ph.D. student in the institute.

When washing laundry microplastic fibers are generated from the rigorous movement that cleans clothes. Eventually, these fibers runoff into our water and contribute to plastic pollution in our oceans, rivers and coastlines.

Cleaning clothes using quick and cold cycles, avoiding small loads and ‘delicate’ cycles and making clothing last longer, since new clothes sheds many more microfibers than old clothes, are other ways to avoid accidentally allowing microplastics to runoff into our waterways.

How are you celebrating #PlasticFreeJuly? Tag us in photos on social media using @FIUEnvironment and @FIUCASE.