Plastics I encounter in everyday life:
- Plastic Water Bottles
Plastic bottles are sold in virtually all stores for the convenience of those who want to drink clean water in an instant. The name of this product is self-explanatory; clean water is contained in plastic bottles. Water is often sourced from springs or municipal water supplies and the plastic used to create these bottles is polyethylene terephthalate (PET) (https://www.thomasnet.com/articles/materials-handling/plastic-bottle-manufacturing). I don’t often use plastic bottles since I use my Brita pitcher and reusable water bottles. Over the past month, I have used plastic water bottles maybe three times. Plastic water bottles are a one-time use product. After usage, plastic water bottles are often recycled but this is not always the case. Littered plastic bottles produce pollution that can endanger wildlife as well as humans if plastic water bottles are not disposed of properly. Better alternatives to plastic water bottles are sturdy, reusable water bottles which now can come insulated. Prior to portable plastic water bottles, people used canteens or jugs to carry potable water. By reducing temporary plastic product usage, people can better help the environment.
- Credit/Debit Cards
Credit cards and debit cards are pocket-sized pieces of plastic used to make monetary transactions in stores and online. I use my debit card frequently and whenever I have to make a purchase without using cash. In fact, I prefer using my card rather than tangible cash. Plastic cards are quick, compact ways to pay. Paying with a card is also more convenient than paying with cash. Credit and debit cards are in use until they expire, which lasts for a couple of years. Credit and debit cards are made out of several layers of plastic; their core is often made out of polyvinyl chloride acetate (PVCA) (http://www.madehow.com/Volume-4/Credit-Card.html). After credit and debit cards are used, owners of those cards might want to destroy them by cutting them up or shredding them in order to erase any personal information on them. In today’s society, digital versions of payment cards can be used and scanned in modern brick and mortar stores. Apple Pay, Chase QuickPay, Venmo, and Cash App are some digital card platforms users can use to make payments without using a physical plastic card.
- Pens/Mechanical Pencils
Plastic pens and mechanical pencils are reusable writing utensils until they run out of their medium, ink or lead, respectively. As a college student, I use pens and mechanical pencils every single day for note taking. I have used a plastic pen or pencil virtually almost every day of my life since I started school; it is a basic essential. Though most pens and mechanical pencils are disposable, some brands have created refillable pens and pencils where ink and lead can be purchased separately. After their usage, plastic pens and pencils are just thrown out in landfill trash. The barrel of Bic Cristal pens is made out of polystyrene (https://u.osu.edu/bicpens/02-raw-materials/). The Pilot B2P is a pen that is made out of recycled water bottles. Using pens and mechanical pencils made out of recycled materials or using refillable pens and pencils are better alternatives to using disposable writing utensils.
Plastic straws are used for people to swallow beverages without directly placing their mouths to a cup or mug. For most, straws are a convenient device to drink liquids. Straws also help prevent staining on teeth. However, some disabled people use straws out of necessity. I personally use a straw whenever I can, mainly to prevent teeth staining and also straws make drinking liquids easier. Plastic straws are one-time use objects, however, there are reusable straws in the market. Biodegradable paper straws are also in the market both to help the environment and also to decrease the use of plastic straws. Plastic straws are commonly made out of polypropylene (http://www.madehow.com/Volume-4/Drinking-Straw.html). Plastic straws are hazardous to the environment and recently, there was been a surge in the call to decrease plastic straw usage because plastic straws can end up in the oceans and harm sea turtles. Straws get lodged up in the sea turtles’ noses and prevent them from breathing. Also, other marine animals may accidentally ingest the plastic straws, mistaking them for food. Reusable straws and paper straws are better alternatives to using plastic straws.
- Plastic Bags
Plastic bags are bags made out of three different types of plastic: high-density polyethylene (HDPE), low-density polyethylene (LDPE), or linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) (http://pubs.acs.org/cen/whatstuff/stuff/8238plasticbags.html). I receive plastic bags when I go grocery shopping to carry my produce, depending on the store. I receive paper bags from Trader Joe’s. Plastic bags are one-use products but people commonly use them to line trash cans. However, just because people use plastic bags to carry their trash, plastic bags still end up in landfills. Loose plastic bags on the streets can end up in the oceans or areas of wildlife where animals can come in contact with these bags and potentially end up in harm. Reusable shopping bags are better alternatives to plastic bags when one is going grocery shopping. Some counties and cities have already banned the use of plastic bags. Plastic bag usage has been decreased due to legislation and also personal decisions to switch over to sturdy, reusable bags.
- Plastic Utensils
Plastic utensils are disposable one-time use eating utensils. I only use plastic utensils if there are no metal eating utensils available. Plastic utensils offer convenience to the user since the user can just dispose of the utensil after use rather than having to wash and store it. After plastic utensils are used, they are just thrown out in the landfill trash, and most people think nothing of it. A majority of plastic utensils are created out of polystyrene or polypropylene (https://earth911.com/home-garden/recycling-plastic-utensils/). Plant-based plastic cutlery is a better alternative to polystyrene or polypropylene utensils if the user must use disposable utensils. If not, metal, wooden, or reusable utensils are always the best alternative.