Big Story 10

Small changes, big impact: how to reduce waste in your daily life

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Each person on the planet produces more than 1 kg (2.2 lb) of waste every day, and that number is expected to increase in the next 15 years, according to the World Bank.

Fed up with how government and business are responding to a waste crisis that pollutes the planet and stokes climate change, concerned individuals are increasingly taking the matter into their own hands.

During Zero Waste Week, here are ways you can reduce your impact on the environment:

* Ditch plastic straws: In the United States alone, 500 million plastic straws are used each day, according to campaigners.

Straws are often too small to be recycled and are among the worst polluters of beaches and can end up trapped in turtles’ stomachs.

But single-use, plastic straws can easily be replaced with stainless steel or glass reusable models.

* Carry a reusable water bottle and coffee cup: Every minute, one million plastic bottles are bought around the world, according to data obtained by the Guardian.

Recycling rates are low, and campaigners say at the current pace, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

A reusable water bottle and coffee cup can save money - many coffee chains such as Starbucks offer discounts for customers who come in with their own cup.

* Use a reusable shopping bag: Last week, Kenya joined more than 40 other countries that have banned, partly banned or taxed single use plastic bags, including China, France, Rwanda, and Italy.

Many bags drift into the ocean, strangling turtles, suffocating seabirds and filling the stomachs of dolphins and whales with waste until they die of starvation.

Many supermarkets now offer alternatives such as reusable plastic bags, canvas or cotton bags.

* Start composting: When sent to landfills, food scraps release methane, a gas more potent than carbon dioxide which contributes to global warming.

With composting, which requires a small countertop bin and can be done in apartments, food waste is turned into nutrient-rich soil that can be used to grow flowers, trees or food.

* Switch to reusable sanitary products: A woman who menstruates will use thousands of sanitary products in her lifetime - with a majority using sanitary pads, which are mostly made of plastic, or tampons.

Researchers estimate that 20 billion pads, tampons and applicators are sent to landfills every year in North America.

But the number of alternatives is growing, and includes silicon menstrual cups and reusable pads.

* Quit smoking: cigarette butts are the most commonly discarded item worldwide, and they are considered toxic waste, damaging water supplies and making their way into the food chain. Cigarette butts are not biodegradable and are made of small pieces of plastic.