Breaking up with plastic is a great way to get 2020 started off right in just a few easy steps. Single-use plastic is everywhere. Bags, utensils, and straws are being used for a few seconds and then discarded. Annually, Belize reportedly imports around 200 million pieces of single-use plastic bags along with 52 million pieces of Styrofoam and plastic food containers (DOE). Even when you think the plastic has disappeared, it hasn’t. Microplastics, undetectable to the naked eye, is constantly being introduced into the food chain, and to our natural world. To stave off a looming crisis, Belize has announced steps to phase out single-use plastics and Styrofoam from the food sector. Ahead of the law, here’s how you can do your part to help be plastic free.
Buy unpackaged local produce
Belize is blessed with a plethora of fresh ingredients and close-by availability of produce vendors and local farmers’ markets. By buying your fresh fruits and vegetables lose, you instantly forgo using plastic wrap and/or Styrofoam plates. Supermarkets also have loose produce available but will encourage you to use plastic produce bags for sectioning; feel free to take your own lightweight reusable produce bags or do without bags altogether.
Keep reusable food containers at your office or in your car
Do takeout without the waste by switching from the typical plastic-bagged Styrofoam container to your own personal glass or reusable container. Though takeout’s main appeal is convenience, don’t be shy to ask before showing up; most vendors will have no problem using your container. Once you’ve remember to keep your container handy, plastic free becomes a habit and before you know it, grabbing your container will be second nature.
Switch from single-use plastics to reusable or biodegradable options
This may seem like the usual answer, but don’t diminish the effect an individual can have. Switch from single-use plastic water bottle to a refillable bottle; use paper or reusable bags as an alternative to the plastic bag; use biodegradable or reusable options in place of disposables cutlery (i.e. asking for a pasta/reusable straw versus plastic straw, eating in a waffle cone versus a plastic cup, or refusing plastic cutlery if silverware is available). Don’t forget to support the local vendors who have made this effort to invest in their consumer’s health and the environment.
Be mindful of your household’s plastic consumption
While alternatives are available, it takes time to build gradual habits for a plastic free routine, which includes your household. Additionally, try to switch one thing at a time in your home, like using locally-made shampoo or soap bars versus imported plastic-bottled shampoo or soap.
These small steps can reduce the demand for plastic products. However, only together can we increase pressure on policy-makers and companies to encourage a mindset shift. Tell your friends about the steps you’ve committed to being more sustainable; if you can, lend a hand to clean-up efforts in your area.
Written by Carolee Chanona