By William Winberg
It is a known fact that plastic has countless uses in the world today, some better than others, ranging from the cup, lid and straw of a soft drink from your favorite fast food joint to artificial limbs for veterans injured in war. Less commonly known however is that over half of the plastic produced in the world is for single use purposes such a grocery bags or plastic-ware.
This is a huge contributor to ocean pollution. You may have heard of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: an island of garbage twice the size of Texas floating about the Pacific Ocean but did you know that this island and all the other islands like it floating in our oceans consists of as much as 80% plastic? (Gregory and Ryan 1997) This disparity is due to the fact that plastic never completely decomposes. Essentially, every piece of plastic that has ever been manufactured is still on the Earth in some way, shape or form. It just breaks down in to smaller and smaller pieces contaminating the oceans, wildlife, fresh water supplies and ultimately, us. According to Stephen Musson, a safety, health, and environmental program manager at the US Environmental Protection Agency, 93% of Americans age 6 and over tested positive for Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical in plastic, and goes on in his report saying that this and other compounds found in plastic have been found to mimic hormones and have other potential human health effects.
It may seem an overwhelming or even downright hopeless fight against the powerful manufacturers of plastic; we can’t ever expect them to change. However, it’s not a matter of changing the producers of plastic but a matter of changing the consumers, changing us. With this in mind, here is a list of fifteen ways you can tweak your everyday life to be a part of the fight for a healthier earth.
1. Be a part of a beach cleanup. This may be redundant given that you’re already here but we couldn’t help it. Let it be a part of your normal life. A beach cleanup for 3 hours once a month only does the mind and body good.
3. Stop buying plastic water bottles. Reusable glass or metal bottles can be found locally for cheap. You can ever buy a “designer” water bottle that are often glass and reuse that.
4. Just say no to the straw. Get in the habit of asking for no straw when you go out. If you really need one, bring a reusable one.
5. Stop ordering takeout. Just eat there and, if you get leftovers, have your own reusable container to take them home.
6. Cook your own food. Most forms of prepackaged food are packaged in plastic and all the harmful chemicals that go along with it.
7. Buy groceries in bulk and boxes. Many frequently used foods have long shelf life such as cereals, grains and rice. Keep them in your reusable containers. Many necessary products also come in boxes which are less harmful to dispose of.
8. No more plastic freezer bags or wraps. Get reusable glass containers to store and preserve your food.
9. Stop using plasticware. This is a big one. No more disposible dishes and if you absolutely can’t do without them, there’s biodegradable options usually made from corn.
10. Always recycle. Whenever you absolutely cannot reduce or reuse, remember to recycle.
11. Join a local or global activist organization. Look up organizations in your community or out that are fighting for a better environment.
12. Donate. If you can’t find the time to be a part of an organization, you can always help by donating to one. By donating to Coastal Angels, you can help us with: reusable buckets, burlap sacks, snacks and goodies for volunteers, and marketing materials to get the word out to the community (schools, colleges, clubs, groups, neighborhoods, and other organizations).
13. Bring your own cup when you go out. Whether it water, coffee, juice or a smoothie, most likely no one’s going to have a problem with you bringing your own receptacle.
14. Never stop learning. There’s an endless supply of resources in this age of information to stay environmentally informed.
15. Never stop teaching. Tell everyone you know and care for about plastic pollution and our environment. With your knowledge comes wisdom and with that wisdom comes the power and responsibility to make a difference. We must stand together in the fight for a better future.
Musson, Stephen. "Bisphenol A." NGM.com. National Geographic Magazine, 21 July 2008. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.
Gregory, M. R., and P. G. Ryan. "Pelagic plastics and other seaborne persistent synthetic debris: a review of Southern Hemisphere perspectives." Marine Debris. Springer New York, 1997. 49-66.