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The weather is getting warmer, which means it is time for picnics, parties, and BBQs. That also means we are likely to see more waste from single-use disposable products like paper plastics, plastic utensils, party cups, and more. Most of those items cannot be recycled, especially if they are soiled with food waste. This contributes to a very large waste stream – more than 40% of plastic is used just once before it becomes trash.

We need to rethink our current use of single-use products, especially because plastic does not decompose – they eventually break down into micro-plastics and can remain in landfills for hundreds of years. We are lucky if it stays in the landfill. A lot of single-use products end up in our rivers, streams, lakes, and the ocean.

You might be asking “what can I do about it?” It turns out, a lot.

Eliminating single-use plastic consumption requires us to change what we do, but it is not that hard. It just takes a little planning and thoughtfulness.

Here are a few simple solutions that we can do to protect our environment, water, and health every day:

  • Consider using durable plates, cups, utensils, and more at your next BBQ or party.
  • Invest in a reusable coffee cup or water bottle (or both!) Many businesses provide a small discount if you bring your own cup.
  • Get a few reusable tote bags for your trips to the market.
  • If you do use plastic cups and plates at your parties and BBQs, avoid littering.
  • Stay updated on regular recycling routines: In February, some recycling centers in Minnesota no longer accept black plastic and #6 Polystyrene (Styrofoam).
  • Consider having fewer balloons (we know): It is estimated that degrading duration of a balloon takes six months to four years.
  • Skip the disposable straws: The average disposable straw is made from the non-renewable source petroleum.

Whether we are a hosting or attending an event, we can continue to celebrate with a “less plastic is best” approach.

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