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The average American uses 185 pounds of plastic a year and less than 10% of that winds up getting recycled. It takes up to 1,000 years for plastic to degrade — so nearly every piece ever produced still exists in some form, much of it winding up in our oceans.
Images of such ocean pollution inspired Beth Terry to pursue a plastic-free life back in 2007. We talked to the California accountant-turned-activist about why she eliminated plastic from her life and how others might do the same.
How did you start to eliminate plastic from your life?
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I had no idea how much plastic I was using so I starting collecting all of my plastic waste and tracking it on my blog. Each week, I’d look at what I was using and decide what to cut out next.For me, the easiest thing to cut out first was the plastic shopping bags from stores. I decided I’d never take another.
At first I’d forget to prepare for my shopping trips but now I just never leave the house without three to four reusable bags.The second major thing to cut out was bottled drinks, then plastic food containers.
What did you learn?
I found that plastic is everywhere! Any paper that is leak-proof — like that in ice cream-cartons, frozen vegetable packages, milk cartons, paper cups — is lined with plastic. Lids on glass jars are usually lined with plastics, as are those on beer bottles.Many of the foods we buy feature useless plastic garnishes, like the little plastic grass that comes in sushi containers or the plastic ring that sits in the middle of pizzas.
So I had to get creative and see things in different ways. I started always carrying a glass or stainless steel bottle and container with me to store leftovers.
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