Quantcast #QuitSingleUse - United By Blue

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Plastic became popular in the 50s for its indestructibility, which is why it now poses an overwhelming problem: estimates for the time it takes plastic to biodegrade range from 450 years to never. Instead of biodegrading, most plastic breaks into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics. Smaller doesn’t mean less threatening. These microplastics now show up in our food, in our water and in our air. The smaller they are, the more likely they are to break biological barriers and cause significant tissue damage.

Single use plastics symbolize the peak of throwaway culture, and the environment is paying the price. Items we use for minutes will outlive us by centuries, choking our oceans and waterways by the billions. This unrelenting waste impacts more than 1,200 wildlife species through entanglement or ingestion, often fatally. It leaks toxic chemicals into our soil and water, infiltrates animal tissue, and eventually enters our food chain. And it’s only getting worse. If we fail to make direct change, there could be more plastics in our oceans than fish within three decades.

Plastic can threaten our health not just in the form of pollution, but in its entire lifecycle. From the extraction of fossil fuels, to consumer use, to disposal, plastic poses distinct toxic risks to the people it touches. Numerous forms of cancer, birth defects, sensory issues, diabetes and more have been associated with the different stages in plastic’s lifecycle. And it’s not going anywhere: two-thirds of plastic ever produced remains in the environment.

Pledge to #QuitSingleUse for 24 hours

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For every pledge, we'll remove 1 pound of trash from waterways.


We’ve been cleaning trash from waterways for nine years, but picking it up is no longer enough; it’s time we begin addressing ocean pollution further upstream. Over the next year, United By Blue is committing to #QuitSingleUse plastic. By World Oceans Day 2020, we will be working to eliminate the following plastics from our business:

  • Individual poly bags
  • Master poly bags
  • Swift tags
  • Bubble bags
  • Trim bags
  • Fabric/BisonShield rolls
  • Binder sleeves
  • Plastic shrink wrap
  • Plastic tape

Plastic is everywhere, and it can be extremely difficult to stay away from. We stir our happy hour drinks with the single use straws they come with, reach for overpriced single use water bottles when we’re thirsty at the airport, and carry our dinner ingredients home in bundles of single use grocery bags. But with a little extra care, every single one of these items can be avoided as a whole or replaced with a reusable alternative. Here are some tips:


+ How will you remove all this trash?

Our Cleanups team organizes nationwide clean ups with the help of volunteers and partnering companies to remove trash from our waterways. You can find out more

+ Isn’t recycling good enough? Why do I have to give up plastic if I’m disposing of it properly?

A good way to think about your use / consumption - in this order:

  • Reuse / Use what you have:This is the lowest impact that you can have on the planet. Rather than creating demand for new products and increasing consumption, use what you have until you can’t any longer (hence, responsible, durable goods that will last you a long time)
  • Refuse / Use an alternative: If you are able, refuse new or single-use items in your day-to-day life. This becomes easier if you replace single-use items with alternative, reusable items, like a reusable water bottle, glass/metal straw, tote grocery bag, etc.
  • Reduce / Demand for new and single-use items: Maybe you don’t need a lid with your drink “for here,” or you can carry your groceries to the car instead of using a plastic bag.
  • Recycle / Compost: If all else fails and you need to consume a new or single-use item, dispose of it cyclically! Recycling / composting gives your single-use product a second life, reducing the need for virgin plastics and materials.

Avoid if possible: If you can’t reuse, refuse, reduce, or recycle, try to avoid consuming that item. No one is perfect, but making the effort to turn down non-recyclable, non-reusable materials like styrofoam goes a long way!

+ Why is recycling so far down the list?

Recycling is a good option if you have no choice but to use a disposable item. However, recycling only prolongs the life cycle of plastic, and it still will eventually be disposed.

Once eventually disposed of, plastics will last for thousands of years in a landfill or worse, a natural environment. In these scenarios, plastic breaks down very slowly, releasing carbon into the atmosphere at a steady rate and putting wildlife at risk.

Additionally, recycled plastic holds a lower market value than virgin plastic does. Typically, plastic can only be recycled once before it loses its value as a material, and therefore, heads straight to the landfill. While prolonging its lifecycle is better than nothing, recycling is still an imperfect solution.

Don’t get us wrong - recycling is still the best option we have for the sometimes unavoidable consumption of single-use items! We encourage you to continue recycling and educating your peers as long as plastic remains in our lives.

+ What are some low cost tips for how I can change my plastic habits?

Sometimes we have to look past convenience to do what's right and better for ourselves and the environment.  

    • Ditch disposable plates/bowls
    • Drink tap water
    • Bring your own shopping bag
    • Don't use a straw
    • Reusable diapers
    • Use old jars instead of plastic bags or saran wrap for storage
    • Stop chewing gum (it's plastic!)
    • Choose the cardboard option
    • Skip the soaps with microbeads and add a little sugar as an exfoliant

+ Why does this affect me?

The single use plastic epidemic affects the entire world. As much as this affects animals and our earth, it can also affect our health. Microplastics enter the human body and are consumed through our food, our drinking water, and breathed in as dust. We can't do anything about the existing plastic but we can reduce this problem from getting worse by producing and using less plastic.  

+ Why plastic, why not other single use materials?

Let’s talk plastic vs. glass vs. aluminum. The global recycling rate of plastics is actually pretty low—in 2018, only 9% of plastic material was recycled. The vast majority of it is combusted for energy or sent to a landfill, where it can either find its way to a river and be sent into an ocean, or sit in the landfill for centuries before finally decomposing. Glass, on the other hand, is 100% recyclable and it’s estimated that 80% of recovered glass containers are made into new glass bottles. And quickly, too: it can happen within a month of a bottle being thrown away. Similarly, aluminum cans are fully recyclable and are commonly recycled worldwide as part of municipal programs. They can also be recycled repeatedly, with no limit. So with plastic, we’re taking the time to focus on the biggest perpetrator in the single use community as a way to prevent pollution at its source.

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