Reducing Single-use Plastic

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Wasting less is one of the most powerful ways we can conserve energy and reduce our climate impact.  Our throwaway culture wastes energy in both the manufacture and transportation of new products and the transportation and disposal of discarded products. Even recycling uses fossil fuel energy and produces greenhouse gasses.

In addition to the impact that wasteful practices have on climate, discarded plastic is creating a grave, rapidly growing environmental and health crisis that threatens our sustainability.  

Discarded plastic does not decompose into natural materials.  It breaks apart into smaller and smaller pieces (microplastics), but they remain plastic and contain serious toxins like endocrine disruptors and carcinogens.  They are ingested by animals and enter our bodies through the food chain, as well as through our water and air. For a long time, we’ve been under the impression that single-use plastics were OK as long as we recycled them, but only a small percentage of plastic actually gets recycled, and it is getting harder and harder to find countries to take our discarded plastic.


The A Climate to Thrive Zero Waste Group has been researching and doing community education about plastic since July, 2017.  In the fall of 2017, four Pemetic Middle School students, Ella Izenour, Caroline Musson, Charlotte Partin, and Logan Wilbur, did research about plastic waste in Bonnie Norwood’s science class and became determined to ban single-use carryout plastic bags and polystyrene in all the MDI towns.

In March, 2018, after a screening of the documentary Bag It, Dr. Christy Seed stepped forward to organize and lead the Citizens Initiative for Reducing Plastics on MDI to support the girls’ bold vision, in collaboration with A Climate to Thrive.

On November 13, 2018, the town of Southwest Harbor voted overwhelmingly to ban single-use plastic carryout bags and polystyrene foam (aka styrofoam) food containers, effective on Earth Day 2019!  Citizen groups in the other 3 MDI towns and Ellsworth are working to pass the same or similar ordinances before next summer.

To see the proposed ordinances, the students’ slide presentation, FAQs, and other information about plastic and alternatives, click here

For information about other Maine ordinances, click here.

Highly Recommended Documentaries to learn more: Bag It , A Plastic Ocean, and Smog of the Sea

Top 10 Actions You Can Take to Use Less Plastic:

From Natural Resources Council of Maine with our additions in italics

  1. Refuse disposable plastics every chance you get.

  2. Use reusable shopping bags and reusable produce bags, preferably made of durable and washable materials.  And remember to bring them into the store!  :) Some, like Chico bags, weigh almost nothing and can go into a pocket smaller than a tennis ball, so they can be kept in your bag, backpack, or coat pocket.

  3. Avoid buying packaged food; if you must buy something in a package, look for glass jars or cardboard boxes instead of plastic.  Farmers’ Markets and MDI FarmDrop are great ways to shop plastic-free.  

  4. Avoid buying beverages in plastic bottles.  If your tap water is not good for drinking, a filter can save a lot of money and plastic.  Here’s one filter as an example that has no plastic and works well.

  5. Keep a reusable mug and water bottle with you.  You can carry a reusable utensil set and a stainless steel straw too.

  6. Just say no to plastic straws.

  7. Bring your own container for take-out or leftovers.

  8. If you are hosting a party, avoid disposable plastic cutlery, cups, and plates—and don’t bother with the compostable kind unless you intend to send them to a compost facility.

  9. Avoid clothing made from synthetic materials, and research ways to prevent microfibers from leaving your washing machine. There are filters, special washing bags, and other innovative microfiber collectors coming on the market all the time.

  10. Lend, borrow and buy second hand clothing, furniture, toys, etc, whenever you can.

For the Top 100 Actions and Tons of Specific Information about Alternatives, Check Out myplasticfreelife.com.