Editor's note: During and after Carnival time in Trinidad and Tobago, the streets and venues become littered with plastic cutlery and styrofoam food containers and cups. The Last Straw & More details how to reduce plastic wastage in this article. Try some of these tips for a less toxic and non-plastic Carnival.
Did you know that we are producing nearly 300 million tons of plastic annually? According to Plastic Oceans International, a non-profit organisation geared towards ending plastic pollution, half of these are single-use plastics such as straws, cutlery, food containers, water bottles and plastic bags—all of which are heavily used around Carnival time. Keep in mind that plastic does not biodegrade, this means that the first straw that was ever used, still exists somewhere! Plastic only breaks down into small pieces, but never goes away.
The Ocean Conservancy program states that approximately 8 million tons of plastic that is disposed ends up in our oceans every year. This is equivalent to a garbage truck unloading only plastic into the ocean every minute. The Washington Post predicts that if we continue to use these single use plastics, by the year 2050 there will be more plastic than fishes in the ocean.
With the vast amount of plastic floating around in our oceans, marine life often mistake it for food. Animals then swallow this hazardous material causes injury or death. When we consume fish that have swallowed microplastics, we in turn ingest that plastic, which is detrimental to our health.
We see a lot of social media post and articles about this world wide problem. Majority of these articles are animals being harmed by plastic; sometimes becoming entangled and in other cases, becoming jammed in orifices. One well known example is the sea turtle with the plastic straw stuck in his nostril, whose suffering and liberation was reposted several times on social media.
So instead of reposting that article, how about we work together to eliminate this problem? Yes, countries all over the world now are placing bans on single use plastics, but why wait for a ban? You can take the initiative upon yourself.
5 Easy Tips And Tricks For A Non-Plastic Life
#1 Reusable Shopping Bags
We all know that major grocery store chains in our country have changed the game with plastic bags by either completely banning plastic bags, using brown paper bags or making durable market bags available for their customers with an attached cost.
If you have forgotten your bag, use card boxes that are often provided in-store to transport your grocery items. The boxes can then be later used for additional storage—adding yet another use! Or, you can get yourself a customised canvas tote bag!
Hint: Leave them in your trunk so, you won’t forget them when you go to the grocery. Check out @cq.accesories on Instagram for beautifully designed reusable bags!
#2 Reusable Water Bottles
Keep a reusable water bottle on the go. It’s good to keep hydrated. Get yourself a glass or stainless steel water bottle to walk around with. Investing in a filtered water system also, can be cost-efficient and environmentally friendly!
Hint: Many stores in Trinidad and Tobago have unique designs in water bottles and cups. They are great as a conversation starter and are even fete-worthy! So, instead of purchasing a mountain of single-use plastic cups for your next cooler fete, proudly use your very cool reusable water bottle!
#3 Reusable Cutlery
Do you eat on the go a lot? Here is a conscious solution when having that pelau and fresh salad from your favourite food spot. Instead of using the plastic cutlery available, try walking with your own silverware or wooden utensils.
Hint: Check out Phillip Arthur at the Green Market, Santa Cruz every Saturday to get your very own trendy and wooden reusable utensils.
#4 Reusable Food Containers
Just like walking around with your own cutlery, walking with a light weight container with a lid can help reduce the waste crisis when buying food on the go.
If you’re having a party and need disposable plates for easy clean up. Then, you can utilise what nature gave us… banana leaves! This is commonly used to serve traditional East Indian food after Hindu Ceremonies. It’s a quick and easy clean and not to mention biodegradable.
Hint: Check out @hellogreen_tt on Instagram to get compostable disposable containers and vegware.
#5 Reusable straws
Don’t suck, get yourself a stainless steel straw! They are durable, easy to clean and can be carried around. You can also get a reusable bamboo straw, they are lightweight, reusable and 100% natural.
Hint: Check out @thelaststrawtt on Instagram, where you can get both stainless steel and locally made bamboo straws along with cleaning brushes and travelling bags. They even have bamboo toothbrushes!
So let’s be mindful and think about the consequences before we use any single-use plastics, especially this Carnival. Just because it’s out of sight, it should not be out of mind after we place that plastic straw in the bin.
Today there are many eco-friendly resources available as mentioned above, so let’s take advantage of it and start practicing sustainable living.