Plastic bottles. Plastic cups. Plastic packaging. Plastic is in everything we use: it’s unavoidable. However, many are oblivious to the stark environmental impacts of the overconsumption of plastic. McDonald’s has switched from plastic to paper straws but is it too little too late? Many supermarkets have also implemented a fee for single-use plastic bags but is it enough?

Plastic pollution is a pressing global issue—the rise of ubiquitous single-use plastic has led to many environmental issues. There are 381 million tonnes of recyclable plastic waste a year, with 91% ending up in landfills and if all the landfills are too full, they are simply dumped in the seas. Fish, turtles, whales, and many more marine animals suffer starvation from mistaking plastic for food therefore preventing them from eating real food. They can also suffer from lacerations, suffocation, and a reduced ability to swim.  Not only is plastic a threat towards wildlife in the ocean, but as plastic slowly decomposes, microplastics form which recent research shows can cause tissue damage, and inflammation and are carcinogenic. 

Furthermore, although companies are trying to be more environmentally conscious, supermarkets still use single-use packaging for items that don’t need it—such as fresh produce. 2/5 of all plastic used for packaging is used solely for food even though many vegetables don’t need to be packaged like carrots. McDonald’s has opted for paper straws over plastic straws however the lids of drinks are still plastic which is deemed quite controversial by some.

Nevertheless, there are a multitude of things you can do to combat this. For instance, you could limit your use of plastic by investing in a reusable hydro flask, switching out plastic straws for metal or silicone straws, and buying loose produce instead of pre-packaged vegetables. You don’t have to completely transform your life, but small changes can greatly impact how large your plastic footprint is.