If you didn’t know already, PLASTIC SUCKS. In the past year it seems parts of the world have made the connection between plastic straws and the effects it has on the planet, oceans, and more specifically the sea turtles. But does it really matter that we use single use plastic? I mean if a few straws end up in the ocean that’s okay right? WRONG.
For so many of us single use plastic is a part of our daily lives. Our toothbrush is made of plastic, our toothpaste tube is plastic, our shampoo and conditioner are in plastic bottle, our morning coffee comes in a paper cup lined with plastic, our groceries are wrapped in plastic, and the take out we order comes in a plastic container in a plastic bag. What we think of as the norm is actually relatively new. It wasn’t until World War II that plastic became so readily available. In fact during the war plastic production in the United States increased by 300%. By the 1960’s people began to see plastic ending up in the oceans and became concerned. By the 1980’s practically everything was wrapped, packaged, or made of plastic and activists set out to impose bans on single use plastic bags. Today the ultimate symbol of plastic pollution is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This congregation of plastic in the Pacific Ocean is estimated to be the size of Texas, and growingly steadily. Every day approximately 8 MILLION pieces of plastic pollution end up in our oceans. This factors out to be about 269,000 tons of plastic and the number is growing every single day.
You may be wondering, "how does plastic even ends up in our oceans?". Well about 2/3 of it comes from land based sources. This means litter being left on the beach, washed down rivers, badly managed landfills or industry spills. The remainder of the plastic is lost at sea; containers going overboard or fishing gear/nets being lost. But what about when you make an effort to recycle?
A majority of American cities send their recycling (paper, plastic and other scrap materials) to China for it to be processed. But earlier this year, as part of a broad antipollution campaign, China decided it no longer wanted to import “foreign garbage”. While some waste management companies process/ sort their recycling domestically, a lot of companies no longer have a place to send it…except the landfill which we already know isn’t the answer. China’s stricter rules also mean that our loads of recycling are likely to be considered contaminated when they contain materials that can’t be recycled. Many of us hold a false belief that ALL plastic can be recycled but that just isn’t true. Our goal shouldn’t be to buy “recyclable” plastic. It should be to cut out as much plastic from our lives as we can.
The truth is plastic is here for the long haul. It takes hundreds of years for it to even begin to decompose and that only occurs if the setting is optimal. In the states we have a very organized way of disposing of our trash and recycling. Once it leaves our house we rarely see it again. What is out of sight becomes out of mind. But that doesn’t mean that coffee cup you got earlier today isn’t ending up in our oceans. We look down upon other countries when we see mountains of trash, not realizing we are a major part of the problem. Per capita the United States is one of the leading waste producers. Practically everything we use is single use. Our society has forgotten the importance of buying quality reusable items.
But why should we even care that there is plastic in the ocean? Other than seriously disrupting, destroying, and killing marine life, plastic filled oceans affects all life on earth. The ocean produces over half of the world’s oxygen. The more plastic there is in the ocean the poorer our air quality becomes. The ocean covers 70% of the Earth’s surface and plays a major role in climate regulation; it transports heat from the equator to the poles, regulates climate, and weather patterns. Whether you live in the Brazil, Zimbabwe, or the United State, plastic in the ocean affects YOU.
It’s 2018 and it’s time to WAKE UP! Reusable straws may be a step in the right direction but they are only scratching the surface of a much bigger problem! We are quite literally destroying the planet we live on; and for what? Convenience? Reducing your plastic consumption is simpler than you might think. It involves make simple easy swaps and purchasing items that you can use time and time again. The earth is what we all have in common, a sacred place full of life. Our planet is deteriorating before our eyes and I refuse to stand by and watch it happen. This is an issue that affects ALL life on this planet. Moving towards a zero waste life doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice, it means taking responsibility for your actions.
For so many of us plastic exists in numerous aspects of our lives. Cutting it out may take time and that’s okay. Don’t compare yourself to others, instead focus on what choices you can make TODAY that reduce the amount of plastic you consume. Take it day by day, seek out ways to reduce your plastic, and remember to go easy on yourself.
The History of Plastic
Does Recycling Work?
The Problem with Plastic Pollution
World’s Most Wasteful Countries
Trash is for Tossers