We Can All Reduce Single-Use Plastics
Have you heard of Plastic Free July? Originated by the Plastic Free Foundation, Plastic Free July is “a global movement that empowers millions of people to choose a future with cleaner communities and oceans through refusing single-use plastics.”
The State of New Jersey and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection took steps towards single-use plastics reduction in 2020 through the passing of the “Get Past Plastic Law," which enacted a ban on single-use plastic bags and polystyrene foam food containers, and required single-use plastic straws to be give only upon request from all New Jersey food service businesses. All parts of this law have been in effect since May 4, 2022.
Plastic Free July is a great opportunity to continue this mission by finding other single-use plastic items we use regularly, and substituting them with reusable or plastic-free alternatives.
Take a first step and assess your single-use plastic consumption.
Start by looking around your home. It might be helpful to do a waste audit by checking out your garbage can. How much of it is taken up by single-use plastics, and what are the biggest contributors—individual kids’ yogurt cups, clear plastic wrap and bags, single-use utensils, cups, or plates? Once you have a sense of what is in your garbage, you can start planning how to reduce your usage.
If you are just starting your plastic-free journey, here are some suggestions for small but impactful changes:
- Bring your own metal or glass water bottle with you when you go out to avoid purchasing single-use container drinks—even for your daily coffee.
- Take a suit bag to the dry cleaners and have them skip the plastic and put your clean clothes directly into the bag.
- Decline single-use utensils and straws, especially for takeout that you’ll be eating at home.
- When going to a restaurant, bring a small container with you for leftovers.
- Opt to refill your basic household products. You can do this by taking empty bottles of dish soap or shampoo to a refill store to replenish without the use of more plastic, or by switching to alternatives like eco-friendly laundry detergent sheets, and hand soap refill and toothpaste tablets.
- Our favorite: When getting ice cream, choose a cone versus plastic cup and spoon.
What about the plastic we already have?
While trying to reduce single-use plastics in our daily lives, the reality is that most households already have a lot of plastic that can be reused or properly recycled. To help do so, Westfield’s Conservation Center offers many recycling and reuse programs.
One standout program is Second Chance Toys. Westfield began its relationship with Second Chance Toys in 2018, and since then, about 2,000 plastic toys have been collected at the Conservation Center, cleaned, and donated to children in neighboring communities. Councilman David Contract spearheaded bringing the program to Westfield and said, “This is the epitome of a win-win. Instead of these toys being thrown out or incinerated in the County incinerator, they are being cleaned and reused and potentially re-used again.”
Other great plastic recycling programs include plastic film recycling -- which accepts plastic film at the Center, including Ziploc bags, plastic shopping bags, and plastic wrap from vegetable containers and toys -- and the very popular #5 plastics collection, which was implemented in 2021.
For more information on these and other recycling programs available at the Conservation Center, visit westfieldnj.gov/conservation.