More reasons to prevent plastic waste from entering our waters

A fish caught with a beverage ring around its belly in Lake Ontario PHOTO Jim Bodenstab via 5Gyres Newsletter.

Photo of basking shark with plastic ring around her nose. Credit: Craig Whalley via 5gyres.org blog

And why we should all be participating in beach clean ups…on our own, or through regularly scheduled clean up efforts by organizations like Save Our Shores (for Santa Cruz and Monterey County, California beaches).

Photo via 5Gyres.org

 

It seems an insurmountable task, when we use plastics for….well… just about everything!

Unfortunately, we currently recover only about 5% of the plastics we produce, so we have to decrease — and better yet — eliminate as much plastics as we can from our daily activities.

We can do this!

Visit  5gyres.org and take the Plastic Promise: 

I promise to:

  • Bring my own water bottle, mug, utensils and reusable bag.

  • Say ‘No Plastic Straw Please” when I dine out.

  • Buy what’s in the least amount of plastic packaging.

  • Pick up 5 pieces of plastic pollution I see littered whenever I’m out.

  • Engage family, businesses and co-workers to make this promise too.

Related articles: Lolako’s 12 Minutes (the average use time of a plastic bag) and Trash and Plastics Vortex in the North Pacific

Plastic Rich / Plastic Poor

I am reading Susan Freinkel’s book, Plastic, A Toxic Love Story.

The book is comprehensive, and a fascinating read about the history of plastic and products familiar to all of us. It also got me feeling depressed, and then alarmed about the future and the environment my grandchildren will inhabit.

Ms. Freinkel chooses eight objects to help tell the story of plastic:  The comb, the chair, the Frisbee, the IV bag, the disposable lighter, the grocery bag, the soda bottle and the credit card.

She examines how these objects are made, the history, the culture of plastics, and how synthetics affect our health and environment.

There is a comment from a speaker at a plastics manufacturer’s conference in 1956, quoted as saying “Your future is in the garbage wagon”. How true…and it turns out that today, the average American throws away 300 pounds of packaging a year — and this mountain of containers and wrappings accounts for about 1/3 of the municipal waste stream.

Initially, we had to be taught to throw away plastic items — especially after the depression era culture of “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”.

But it did not take long for us to absorb the lessons — especially because everyone was becoming more prosperous — at the same time when many disposable products were entering the market.  Life magazine dubbed this (then) new era “Throwaway Living” .

The thing is…in these modern times, the abundance of plastic waste is not exclusive to a wealthy country like the United States.  Plastic waste is also an issue for the poor.

The difference between the Philippines and the US per capita income is huge.  The Philippines is at $2,007 (US Department of State data – 2010) and the US is at $47,084 (World Bank, 2010 data).

So…you would think that when you don’t have the money to spend on disposable utensils and other disposable conveniences, the issue of plastic trash is minimized.

Unfortunately, that is not the case in a country like the Philippines. Because the poor can afford to buy only the bare necessities…these items are packed in very small, plastic packages.  Snack foods too, are packed in tiny packages, and remnants of these tiny packages are often seen at the beach, by the side of the road…well, all over really.

Can you imagine buying only a clove of garlic, as pictured below, from a local market…

or just enough spice, or salt for cooking the day’s family meal?

or to buy detergent and laundry products to wash just a few items of clothing?

I am part of this plastics generation — and problem — and feel propelled into doing something, before it is too late.

The question is…what can I do…how do I get the word out?  Well, here is a part of getting the word out…PLEASE READ THIS TIMELY BOOK.

~Lola Jane