Recently, the video sharing website Liveleak, published a video about Albania, which by now has reached over 70.000 views.

It didn’t show the beauty of its nature, the smiles of its hospitable people, or its tasty traditional food.

It showed Fierza Lake by Kukes, covered in plastic waste.

Plastic pollution is a huge worldwide problem and one of the greatest challenges of our time. And although countries with the size of Albania are small contributors compared to bigger nations and economies, here it’s even more obvious how concerning the situation is, when one takes a look at the Adriatic beaches in the off-season or at the riverbeds all around the country.

In the past two decades, Albania has witnessed a considerable economic growth. As in other emerging countries, the introduction of mass consumption has led to a big increase in consumer waste, including plastic bags and other wrapping material.

Plastic very often ends up in the environment, polluting cities, rivers and ultimately the seas or is being burnt in the fields emitting the particularly harmful toxic chemicals called dioxins and causing additional air pollution.

Fruits and vegetables are still sold in single plastic bags, so that with just one shopping a single household ends up with a dozen of bags.

While the biggest responsibility to take immediate action still lies in the hands of governments and industry, every one of us is can cut down his our personal plastic footprints.

Facts about Plastic Pollution

Since 1950, humans have created 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic (imagine the weight of 45.3 million 747 airplanes), and even worse: roughly half of that was created in the last 13 years. Despite well intentioned efforts around the globe, only 9% is recycled.

Some 12% is destroyed through incineration, and 79% is either in our landfills or polluting our natural environment.

The weight of all plastic currently on earth already is 29 times as much as all humans put together. If we continue on this disturbing trend then there will be 12 billion metric tons of plastic in our landfills and natural environment by 2050 – and plastic will outweigh fish in the ocean.

Plastic actually never goes away, even the biodegradable one.

Rather, it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces through exposure to the elements. It’s the tiny pieces and micro plastics that may pose the biggest risk to wildlife as they are easily mistaken for food by fish and birds. Researchers in Australia estimate that nearly all seabirds have eaten plastic at some point.

You may be wondering what all these unimaginably huge amounts of plastic pollution do to your health. The short answer is that we still do not yet know the full extent, but what we do know is very concerning.

For starters, chemicals used to make plastics hard (bisphenol-A or BPA) or bendable (phthalates) are found in the micro plastics that humans and other living creatures are ingesting. BPA and phthalates have been shown to lead to reproductive and neurological disorders, and pose the most risk to developing children.

So, 80% of the plastic we’ve ever created still exists somewhere on our beautiful planet.

The production of plastic and resulting plastic pollution is still speeding up and the efforts made by politics and corporations are by far not enough to fight the problem. Humans and wildlife are ingesting toxic plastic with only partly clear health effects. We all must act now. But how?

Tips how to use less plastic

Bring your own shopping bag

According to one estimate, somewhere between five billion and one trillion plastic bags are used each year around the world. Although partly still free to shoppers, these bags have a high environmental cost and are one of the most ubiquitous forms of waste.

Bringing your own bag is common but good environmental advice, such good advice that some governments have already implemented policies to encourage more people to do it.

And the next time, when your fruits and veggies are getting packed in plastic bags, just say no and let the supermarket employee stick the price tag directly on them or at least put all of the groceries in one bag.

Additionally to bigger carryall bags, you can further reduce waste by bringing your own reusable tote bags or skipping them entirely.

Say no to straws

Whether for home use or when you’re ordering a drink at a bar or restaurant, plastic straws are often a single-use item that’s just not necessary.

Stop using disposable cutlery

It’s happened to all of us – being caught out in a fast food restaurant or at a bus station when we’ve bought a salad or a yogurt but the only cutlery on offer is plastic! Whilst it’s not always easy to plan for every opportunity, consider carrying a spoon or fork (or spork!) in your bag or keeping cutlery in your desk at work.

Re-think your food storage

Plastic baggies, plastic wrap, and plastic storage containers are worth re-evaluating. Instead of using sandwich baggies, you can pack a bento box for lunch. Instead of throwing away plastic zipper bags or wrapping things in Saran wrap, why not use jars or glass containers in the fridge?

Use matches

If you need to light a candle, build a campfire or start a fire for any other reason, opt for matches over disposable plastic lighters. These cheap plastic devices sit in landfills for years and have even been found in dead birds’ stomachs.

Don’t buy juice

Instead of buying juice in plastic bottles, make your own fresh-squeezed juice or simply eat fresh fruit. Not only does this cut down on plastic waste, but it’s also better for you because you’ll be getting more vitamins and antioxidants and less high fructose corn syrup.

Buy from bulk bins

Purchase food, like cereal, pasta, nuts and rice from bulk bins and fill a reusable bag or container. You’ll save both money and unnecessary packaging.

Stop buying bottled water

Plastic water bottles are among the easiest targets for reducing waste. Instead, keep a refillable bottle handy.

Turn to greener cleaning methods

All the different cleaning agents are not only polluting the seas with chemicals and plastic, but are mostly completely unnecessary. Baking soda, which comes for cheap in large cardboard boxes, and vinegar, which comes in large glass jars, can be used to clean, scour, and disinfect the house and wash dishes, replacing plastic cleaning bottles.

Try to avoid the worst plastics

If you do nothing else, try to steer clear of Polyvinyl Chloride (#3 PVC), Polystyrene (#6 PS), & Polycarbonate (#7 Other).  PVC is found in many, many products and causes a whole host of environmental problems.

PS contains styrene, which is toxic to the brain and nervous system. If you must use plastic, make sure it’s not #3, #6, or #7 polycarbonate. (Note: #7 is a catch-all for many types of plastic that doesn’t fit into the first six categories. Biodegradable plastic is also labeled #7. So when in doubt, ask or google. Here: Link to Agroweb article

*Sources:

https://www.nrcm.org/projects/sustainability/plastic-pollution/

https://www.treehugger.com/green-home/11-easy-ways-reduce-your-plastic-waste-today.html

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/pdf/plastic_waste_factsheet.pdf