Smart Lifestyle, curated for you by BGE and Empower Maryland

Issue 2: 2023


The end of single-use plastic … anything

We know.

When everything from the cap on your orange juice to the band on your smart watch is made from plastic, pushing for conservation may seem like a big ask. But look at it this way—this is your chance to make the biggest impact in ending single-use plastic.

You may ask yourself, “Why plastic? It’s not that bad, is it?” It is. It really is. Here’s why: Plastic doesn’t biodegrade. It only breaks down into microparticles that pollute our environment. We call them microplastics, and they can contaminate our water and food.

You may also ask yourself, “But plastic is recyclable. That should make this all better, right?” Wrong. The sobering fact is that only 9% of plastic gets recycled. This means when you use plastic for a single use, there’s a 91% chance you’re contributing to pollution.

Our intention isn’t to deliver a guilt trip. Instead, it’s to prioritize single-use plastics as the single-best way to make a difference.

Here are the top single-use offenders.

Plastic Straws

The problems

They’re tiny, right? Well, that’s kind of the problem. Because of their size, they can be overlooked for recycling. More importantly, their light weight allows plastic straws to easily blow into our waterways and oceans. And their small size ends up making a big impact on marine wildlife. A few counties in Maryland saw this as an opportunity to make a difference and recently banned plastic straws.

The alternatives

Stainless steel, bamboo, rice and even pasta straws all make for a good substitute. You can also request paper, silicone and plant-based straws. They even make reusable, collapsible straws you can take with you on the go. The other, some might argue “cooler,” choice is to use no straw at all.

Coffee Cups and Lids

The problems

We throw away 50 billion coffee cups each year. These cups may seem more paper than plastic, but the insides of the cups are coated in plastic. And then there are the plastic lids. This is a tough one. It’s wise never to get between someone and their caffeine. Fortunately, other options will allow you to be earth friendly while still getting your morning fix.

The alternatives

Bring your own reusable travel mug to your favorite coffee destination. Not only will you be helping out the planet, but you’ll score serious barista cred for thinking ahead. Or you can grab a seat and sip your coffee alfresco. Hey, we’re all for bringing a little European café culture home to Maryland.

And, if you have to have your coffee to go, just pass on the lid. Your planet will thank you.

Plastic Cutlery

The problems

Plastic use tripled during the pandemic, and takeout plastics played a major role in that increase. Sadly, many food delivery options came with a set of plastic cutlery. Because these items are hard to recycle, they are unusually damaging to the environment.

The alternatives

You can request that your delivery provider not include plastic cutlery—after all, they mostly deliver to your home. We’re guessing you have a few traditional cutlery options lying around. You can reuse or recycle the cutlery delivered, and you can always support businesses that are already making these eco-friendly choices. Finally, there are biodegradable options that you can buy yourself or request from any business.

Plastic Bottles

The problems

Only one of every six plastic water bottles is recycled. That’s resulted in 2 million tons of discarded water bottles ending up in landfills. And counting. Add in the fact that plastics are produced with fossil fuels, and you compound the negative effect of plastic bottles on our world. Some beverage companies are even shifting to plant-based plastics as an earth-friendly alternative.

The alternatives

You can switch to stainless steel water bottles, purchase a water filter for your home and recycle the plastic bottles you use. If you want to step it up an environmentally friendly notch, begin looking for discarded plastic bottles and get them to a recycling bin.

These single-use plastic options are just the beginning. We can make the world a better place without too much effort. Let’s combat waste during a time we consume like crazy. You could even make it a New Year’s resolution way before the new year begins.