Reduce your plastic use

Published 8:23 pm Saturday, January 20, 2018

A group of Suffolk artists got together recently to make art out of something that’s ubiquitous in our society yet rarely used as an art medium — plastic.

Specifically, plastic bottle caps. Of all colors, shapes and sizes. More than 20,000 of them.

The final mosaic features a Suffolk water tower in a field of colorful flowers, a river, a bright sun and a sky marked with wispy and fluffy clouds, all depicted by plastic bottle caps.

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The city put out the call for the bottle caps back in November and collected them during a six-week period. Their initial goal was to collect 6,000 bottle caps, but they wound up with about 20,000.

Folks in the community really responded to the project, so it’s no surprise that so many were collected. But looking at the sheer volume of bottle caps, and realizing that’s probably only a fraction of the number that were used in Suffolk in that six-week period, it’s easy to understand why the overuse of plastic and its tendency to pollute the environment are major concerns.

The partnership between Keep Suffolk Beautiful, the Suffolk Art League, the Suffolk Art Gallery and Suffolk Public Schools — which provided art teachers and students to create the mosaic — turned out to be a beautiful partnership that resulted in a stunning mosaic, and it’s sure to have kept more than a few bottle caps out of the landfill and out of our environment, including our precious Nansemond River.

The Green Education Foundation has a number of tips to help you reduce your consumption of plastic:

  • Stop using plastic straws, even in restaurants. If a straw is a must, purchase a reusable stainless steel or glass straw.
  • Use reusable grocery bags. A single plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade.
  • Give up gum. Gum is made of a synthetic rubber, also known as plastic.
  • Buy boxes instead of bottles. Often, products like laundry detergent come in cardboard which is more easily recycled than plastic.
  • Purchase food like cereal, pasta and rice from bulk bins and fill a reusable bag or container.
  • Reuse containers for storing leftovers or shopping in bulk.
  • Use a reusable bottle or mug for your beverages, even when ordering from a to-go shop.
  • Bring your own container for take-out or your restaurant doggy-bag.
  • Use matches instead of disposable plastic lighters or invest in a refillable metal lighter.
  • Avoid buying frozen foods, because their packaging is mostly plastic. Even those that appear to be cardboard are coated in a thin layer of plastic.
  • Don’t use plasticware at home, and be sure to request restaurants do not pack them in your take-out box.
  • Ask your local grocer to take your plastic containers for small produce back. If you shop at a farmers’ market, they can refill it for you.
  • The EPA estimates that 7.6 billion pounds of disposable diapers are discarded in the United States each year. Use cloth diapers.
  • Make fresh squeezed juice or eat fruit instead of buying juice in plastic bottles.
  • Make your own cleaning products to eliminate the need for multiple plastic bottles of cleaner.
  • Pack your lunch in reusable containers and bags. Also, opt for fresh fruits and veggies and bulk items instead of products that come in single-serving cups.
  • Use a razor with replaceable blades instead of a disposable razor.