It is no secret the world is in the midst of a plastic crisis. Today, the average person living in North America or Western Europe consumes around 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of plastic every year, according to the Worldwatch Institute. Though governments around the world have made efforts to ban single-use plastics, the production and consumption of non-essential plastic items continue to pervade the planet.
A new online tool aims to help inform just how much plastic we use every day. Omni Calculator determines your plastic footprint by tallying your plastic consumption for items you use in the kitchen like food wrappers and plastic bags, toiletry items like cotton swabs and toothbrushes, disposable containers and straws, and others such as toys and furniture.
"It takes into account the average weight of basic items that contain plastic as well as our daily life habits. The tool itself is divided into four sections, in which we can enter the numbers of plastic items we use over the desired unit of time – a week, month, or a half year," calculator inventor Hanna Pamula told IFLScience. In each section, she adds that the calculator lists the "most popular products". The calculator itself is relatively simple and features only basic plastic items. It also only incorporates the average weight of the plastic item (which may differ between products and brands) and likely underestimates the amount of plastic used due to human error and the simplicity of the tool.
"Verify it next time you're at the supermarket: take a look at your shopping cart and check how many things are wrapped in plastic. Half? Two thirds? Or almost every item? Did you count all of them when using the calculator for the first time?" asked Pamula.
From the deepest trenches of the ocean to the farthest reaches of the Arctic, the planet is suffocating in plastic waste. Microplastics have infiltrated the eggs of seafaring birds, some of the world’s most remote islands, and even the table salt on your dining table. How can people take up arms in the battle against plastic?
Omni cites the millennial 4R's rule: refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle. Refusing disposable plastics like coffee cups and pushing companies or policymakers to do the same could lessen plastic waste by millions of metric tons every year. Reduce your plastic consumption by choosing products wrapped, packaged, or made with plastic alternatives like biodegradable cotton swabs or feminine hygiene products that use cardboard instead of plastic. When there’s no choice but to use plastic, reuse as much as you can. Use plastic containers as many times as possible or get a reusable water bottle – almost 500 billion water bottles are used around the world every year. When all else fails: recycle.
"I believe that improving waste management and reducing our huge demand for plastic are critical in fighting plastic pollution. It needs to be endlessly repeated: the best way to reduce your own plastic footprint is to refuse and avoid plastic items every time they are not absolutely essential," said Pamula.
A number of other online calculators are available to determine your individual environmental impact, from the Nature Conservancy's Carbon Calculator and the World Wildlife Foundation's Environmental Footprint Calculator to the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Calculator.
Use the tool below to find out how large of a plastic footprint you're leaving.