As if the outbreak of a global pandemic wasn't bad enough for our futures, 2020 was also the year the world saw virgin plastic consumption skyrocket. The price of oil plummeted making the production of new plastics cheaper than ever before. At the same time, demand and need for plastic use to protect people from the coronavirus rose almost overnight. It's a huge problem that will have a devastating impact on the entire ecosystem if we don't put a stop to it.
Of course, the corporations making plastic in such large quantities shoulder much of the blame for this epidemic, but there are some ways individuals can try to reduce plastic consumption in their own homes. That's why Scream Queens actress Emma Roberts decided to challenge herself to "Plastic Free July" an initiative that began in 2011 to bring awareness to plastic waste and consumption. In a phone interview with InStyle, she explained that during quarantine, she became intimately aware of her habits including just how much plastic — particularly takeout containers — was piling up week after week in her recycling bin. "I had kind of thought that because my plastic was getting recycled that it was okay, but then I learned that only 9% of all the plastic gets recycled in the U.S. no matter how much we put in the bin," she said. "I realized that I need to actually lower my plastic use because filling up the recycling bin is not something to be proud of."
“Filling up the recycling bin is not something to be proud of.”
While recycling is certainly better than throwing plastic in the trash, Roberts is right about that abysmal statistic. There are several reasons for this but not the least of them is that plastic is actually downcycled not recycled. According to BBC, when we reuse plastic, it degrades, eventually still ending up in a landfill. The most critical solution is a systemic change to the entire plastic production industry, and responsibility for that rests with the governments and corporations that have allowed this disaster to continue. Still, many activists and experts agree that reducing consumption on an individual level could certainly make an impact. To do this in her own life, Roberts partnered with Grove Collaborative, a Certified B Corporation that makes home products such as reusable bottles for cleaning solutions, and has pledged to be entirely plastic-free by 2025. "This is a global responsibility that we all need to take on. We should realize that one person can make a difference," Roberts said. "If we all change our thought process, there will actually be change. I think that it's really important for not just everyday people, but for companies to really take on the responsibility."
One of the most difficult parts of this challenge for Roberts was trying to reduce plastic waste when it came to caring for her son Rhodes, who was born in December 2020. "I'm always looking for baby recommendations. Even if you're doing glass bottles, there's still the attachment on the top that's plastic. So, it's really, really hard to do it 100%," she said. To that, she adds that she doesn't think people should be intimidated by the idea of living a plastic-free lifestyle, and instead they should focus on tangible steps like switching out a cleaning solution or a hand soap with something refillable. "Grove products are at Target now, which means more access for people who want to make small changes," she highlighted. Indeed, a two-pack of the brand's cleaning concentrate costs $6.99 at the retailer, and the reusable glass spray bottle (which comes in countertop-worthy colors) is $14.99.
“I feel so grateful that I got to spend the first few months home with my son because I know a lot of people have not had that luxury.”
Your kitchen and bathroom aren't the only culprits when it comes to plastic consumption, though. There is plastic in your closet, too. According to the United Nations, around 60% of materials made into clothing are plastic and those garments often end up in landfills. "I'm a big vintage shopper," Roberts noted as her personal solution to this problem. "My friends and I are very into trading. I'm always interested in giving my clothing another life, so I would never get rid of anything. I always pass it on and say to my friends, 'Wear it or pass it on with love,' just to keep it getting passed on, because there's always someone that will enjoy wearing something that you're over." One thing that she did mention she's still over as Y2K fashion trends come back around? "Kitten heel flip-flops. I wore way too many of them," she said. (Bella Hadid would like a word).
Outside of her journey through the complex world of plastic reduction, Roberts was in Boston filming her new romantic comedy About Fate which she stars in alongside Thomas Mann. "I was so excited to get back to work, but I feel so grateful that I got to spend the first few months home with my son because I know a lot of people have not had that luxury," she said. Adding that it's been a hard year for everyone so she just wanted to make something light-hearted that will perhaps make fans of her last movie, Holidate, pretty happy. "It has a little bit of a holiday vibe and, for me, coming out of what we've been through with the last year, I just want to work on feel-good stuff and see feel-good stuff."
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