It is a familiar scene: you pick up your takeout food, and the restaurant kindly tosses in a handful of plastic utensils. Although accepted as standard restaurant etiquette, these plastic utensils result in environmental disaster. This plastic pollutes waterways, endangers wildlife, causes extinction in marine species, and degrades the environment.
Considering more than half of the plastic used is thrown into the garbage, these utensils often make their way into oceans, rivers, and more, contaminating the surrounding water. This water is not only used for drinking, recreational activities, and industrial activities, but it is also the habitat of countless marine species. Marine species depend on air circulation for survival; as plastic accumulates in waterways, it covers the surface, disrupting this cycle. Additionally, spoons and forks can be ingested by wildlife–as they are mistaken for food–leading to death.
Studies have shown that, in the U.S. alone, over 40 billion plastic utensils are wasted, ending up in our environment and filling landfills. Surely there is an alternative, right? There are two main solutions to this dilemma. The first is to make the shift from plastic to bamboo cutlery. Bamboo is a great alternative; it is fast-growing, safe, hygienic, and biodegradable. However, the drawback is cost. Some restaurants can’t afford the additional costs of bamboo utensils. So, the remaining option is for consumers to make the change. Next time you are offered plastic utensils, politely opt out.
Enjoy your takeout and make sure to tip but try to leave the utensils behind.
By Pearson Ehrich