Though plastic products are inexpensive and convenient to use, a global plastic waste crisis is building, with major implications for our health and the environment. The building blocks of plastics are resins, derived from oil, and produced by the petrochemical industry, a major polluter and contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, it takes considerable resources (e.g., oil, energy) to produce plastics, and to pick up and recycle or dispose of them. Nationally, less than 10% of the plastics are recycled. About 15% of U.S. plastic waste is burned in waste-to-energy facilities, which contributes to air pollution. The remaining 75% goes to landfills. Litter often ends up in streams and rivers, and our oceans are collecting plastic waste at an alarming rate. For example, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of plastic floating trash located between Hawaii and California, has a surface area approximately twice the size of Texas. Plastic products take anywhere from several to hundreds of years to break down, and most simply break into smaller and smaller pieces, creating micro-plastic fragments that last nearly forever. These plastic micro-particles can be found in the bodies of aquatic species like the fish we eat, and in human drinking water sources. Our oceans, the lifeblood of our planet, have become a garbage dump, and the situation has gotten scary!
What Can We Do –
1. As much as possible, try to avoid the use of plastic products, especially Styrofoam since it is not recycled from our curbside garbage bins.
2. At home, even for parties, use dishes, glasses and utensils that can be washed or are paper based.
3. Drink tap water or filter your water instead of using disposable water bottles. Studies have shown that tap water is usually as safe or safer than bottled water; by drinking tap water you can reduce plastic waste and avoid potentially consuming resins and chemicals from the disposable plastic bottles.
4. When you go out to eat, bring your own container for left-overs. When a server places a straw in your drink, kindly suggest the “ask before place” option to the manager.
5. At the grocery store, use inexpensive ($1) re-usable grocery bags. Once you get in the habit of placing the bags in your car, it is a minor inconvenience to carry them in the store.
6. Though these actions are somewhat less convenient, it is the right thing to do for ourselves and future generations!