Have you heard of the Big 4? Not the Big 4 Accounting Firms but the Big 4 Single-Use Plastics.
As you could have guessed, the big four will not be formed without plastic straws. The anti plastic straw movement started in 2015, when a video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck up its nose went viral. (Caution: Video might not be suitable for kids). Since then, many businesses have joined in the effort to eliminate plastic straws, advocating for the environmental cause.
1. PLASTIC STRAWS
In Singapore, an estimate of 2.2 million straws are used daily, according to a report published in 2018. These small and light objects often get blown into our drains and into the sea and are one of the causes of starvation and death among seabirds and sea turtles. In the ocean, these straws decompose into microplastics over time, which would then be eaten by the helpless fishes and shellfishes in our waters.
Every year, we have produced 300 million tons of plastic globally and half of these are single-use plastics.
Can you believe it? Plastic products were specifically designed to be only used once before being thrown in the bins, all for the sake of our convenience.
Over the past years, efforts to eliminate and ban the use of straws have been admirable. Last year in Singapore alone, over 300 F&B outlets have stopped providing straws.
However, many are not aware that straws only make up less than 1% of the plastics we dump in the ocean.
The collective effort to eliminate straws shouldn't stop there. These efforts have raised awareness and made us more conscious of our usage of straws. Now, we should start looking at the bigger picture - the problem of our plastic pollution.
“Where do I begin?”
If this is what you are thinking of now, you are right on track!
A good starting point would be to reduce or even so, eliminate, your use of the Big 4 Single-Use Plastics.
Given the numerous negative impacts plastics have on our health and our environment, how could we allow tons of plastics to be thrown away so easily?
Furthermore, plastic is known for its durability.
So why are we throwing them away without a second thought?
Plastic straws take 200 years to decompose.
Thus, the first straw you ever used would still be around even after you have passed on.
That being said, the other three single-use plastics - plastic bags, takeaway coffee cups and plastic bottles take 20, 30 and 450 years respectively.
Let’s look into more details of the other Big 4!
2. PLASTIC BAGS
The ‘indispensable’ plastic bags. Plastic bags are provided in almost every store and we often have to use it to dispose of our trash, to keep our waste ‘clean’.
On average, each Singaporean uses 1.6 plastic bags a day. We dispose of 420,000 kg of plastic bags every day in 2017, or 2,640 plastic bags every three seconds.
On a global scale, plastic bags are used for 12 mins before being thrown in the trash.
3. TAKEAWAY COFFEE CUPS
Every year, 16 billion ‘disposable’ paper coffee cups worldwide are thrown after a single use. This results in 6.5 million trees being chopped down every year and 4 billion gallons of water wasted, which is enough for 22 million people to drink the appropriate amount of 8 cups a day for a year.
4. PLASTIC BOTTLES
In Singapore, we use 467 million PET bottles every year. With our population of 5.6 million, on average, each individual uses 83 bottles every year, 7 bottles a month. Surely this can be reduced!
Besides plastic bottles, 473 million plastic disposable items such as takeaway containers are often seen, especially in this season, where most of us takeaway our meals and have them back home.
LOOK BENEATH THE SURFACE
Our effort in reducing plastic straws are just the tip of the iceberg!
Let’s not fall for environmental malpractice and work together to clean up the mess we created!