EARTHWATCH: Plastic Pollution
by Jody Dickson
Plastic is literally everywhere. Just to name a few, we make bottles, toys, packaging, bags, furniture, and pipe out of plastic. Plastic is on parts of our computers and cars. There are even those tiny plastic beads in body care products. We cannot deny that plastic is convenient, incredibly versatile and cheap… which means a lot of it ends up as waste. Some more durable plastics are used repeatedly or for a longer time. Unfortunately, much of the plastic we use daily, an estimated 50%, is used once and then becomes trash. We have developed a disposable lifestyle.
What happens to all of this plastic waste? Some of it gets shipped overseas to be recycled. Quite a bit of it ends up in landfills. However, more than you can imagine ends up as loose “plastic pollution” and frequently ends up in our waterways. Plastic constitutes approximately 90 percent of all trash floating on the ocean’s surface. It takes 500 – 1000 years for these plastics to degrade. Around one million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed each year due to ingesting plastics.
What can you do to reduce the impact of this waste?
– Decline single-use packaging, cups and utensils. Reduce your use of sandwich bags and juice cartons. Choose to reuse, especially when it comes to shopping bags and bottled water. It is estimated that we only recover about 5% of the plastic bags produced and only one of six water bottles.
– Ensure all plastic waste that you have ends up in the proper waste stream. If reusable, reuse it. Recycle anything that can be recycled. If it has to go to the landfill, ensure that it gets there and doesn’t become loose plastic trash.
– If you see plastic waste outside of where it should be, pick it up and get it to where it needs to be.
– Say something to those manufacturers that you think could make better decisions for their packaging.