Choking on Plastic: Trash in Our Oceans and Waterways

Jun 28, 2012 by

Wednesday, and 27 June 2012 10:00  |  Written by Marita Prandoni | Blog Entry

Plastic Bottle photo by FiraxThe Ocean Conservancy organizes an annual international coastal cleanup that takes place on the third Saturday of September. Based on their annual collective beachcombing, they publish an informative report called “A Rising Tide of Ocean Debris and What We Can Do About It.”

The most frequent items found each year are cigarette butts, plastic bags and food wrappers or containers. This illustrates a huge problem. Cigarette butts and single-use packaging do not break down. Nor are they biodegrading in landfills. Plastic requires sunlight to break down and, if littered, it blows across the landscape, ends up in the rivers and bobs out to the ocean. Future generations could be dealing with a litter-strewn planet for centuries, if not longer.

Until there are laws that require manufacturers to pay for and clean up the waste they generate—which could be a long time given that the US is light years behind Europe in holding corporations responsible for damage to the environment and public health—it falls on the consumer to avoid using non-biodegradable plastic and to boycott single-use packaging.

We use enough plastic wrap every year to wrap all of Texas. – EPA

Single-use packaging is downright tacky. Friends don’t let friends use it. So I’ve developed some habits to be part of the solution:

  • I gave up plastic wrap a couple of years ago and it’s been painless. Leftovers go into reusable containers with lids. Sandwiches are wrapped in wax paper or parchment. To bring a homemade dish to friends’ for dinner, I drape it in an elegant linen napkin.
  • I no longer buy aluminum foil. For baking, I use glass cookware with covers.
  • Although the produce bags at my co-op are biodegradable, I reuse the clean bags for lettuce and more delicate veggies. Otherwise, the vegetables and fruits travel unwrapped to the checkout and home to the fridge. Think about how radiant a bunch of broccoli or carrots looks popping out of a canvas or woven bag.
  • My county does not recycle paperboard. So we flatten it at our house and shred it for compost. Most ink is soy-based, and the worms love the wood fiber—carbs.
  • When I go to a restaurant, I tuck a container for leftovers into an attractive bag, to avoid taking home something in a styrofoam or plastic box.
  • I try not to enter a store, grocery or otherwise, without a bag. Whenever I get into the car, I bring a recycled glass bottle filled with cold water or a travel cup. It’s as easy as remembering your wallet.

I will be the first to admit that I’ve been a sinner. But as these practices become second nature, I cringe at the sight of people at a store loading up paper or plastic bags filled with single-use packaging. Just think about the sea turtles, dolphins, whales and all the innocent creatures. Like Eco Hero, J. Nichols of Ocean Revolution, and millions of others across the globe, I have an inordinate fondness for them.

Please share your ideas for everyday habits that will leave our planet more habitable.

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Attribution: EcoHearth


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