In the spirit of this year’s Earth Day theme (‘End Plastic Pollution’), I researched the fate of plastic. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prepared a report for 2014 municipal waste stream data for the United States. Plastic products were either recycled, burned for energy production, or sent to landfills. I used pandas to look at the data and Matplotlib to create a graph. I included percentages for each fate and compared the categories of total plastics, containers and packaging, durable goods, and nondurable goods.
The EPA data shows a majority of plastic products reported in the waste stream were sent to landfills. Obviously, not all plastic waste actually reaches a recycling facility or landfill. Roadsides, waterways, and beaches are all subject to plastic pollution. Decreasing personal use of plastic products can help reduce the overall production of waste.
Here are some ideas for cutting back on plastic use:
- Bring reusable shopping bags to every store.
- Utilize cloth bags for all purchases.
- Opt for reusable produce bags for fresh fruit and vegetables instead of store-provided plastic ones.
- Ditch party plasticware.
- Buy an assortment of silverware from a thrift store for party use.
- Snag a set of used glassware for drinks instead of buying single-use plastic cups.
- Use Bee’s Wrap instead of plastic wrap.
- Bee’s Wrap is beeswax covered cloth for food storage. It works exactly the same as plastic wrap, but it can be used over and over.
- Choose glassware instead of plastic zip-locked bags for storing food.
- Glass containers like Pyrex can be used in place of single-use plastic storage bags.
- Say ‘no’ to plastic straws.
- Get in the habit of refusing a straw at restaurants when you go out.
- Bring a reusable straw made out of bamboo, stainless steel, or glass to your favorite drink spot.
To check out the code for the figure I created, here’s the repository for it.