Today we live in an age of ever growing products that we use for suitability or leisure to help make trivial things like carrying your groceries more fitting with a plastic bag. While the convenience of many everyday products is appealing for most thanks to the invention of plastic, the ugly price for that convenience is on the rise. Plastic being a martyr for many products we the consumer’s use in everyday life should really think about how this man-made material is affecting us in the now and possible unwelcoming future if awareness doesn’t get known. At the rate plastic is being consumed and produced the unknown reality has caused an unwelcome parasite to our ecosystem, a real problem that shouldn’t be ignored.
According to an article in Environmental Health Perspective a “six-year study of research by the 5 Gyres Institute estimated that 5.25 trillion plastic particles weighing some 269,000 tons are floating on the surface of the sea” (Seltenrich). With these large numbers our beautiful oceans are becoming a thing of the past, just another water dump slowly changing the ecosystem. How does the plastic in the ocean affect us, with such big numbers is there really a way to make a difference? On the other hand, does this really affect me? Think about this if the plastic isn’t at your door step how can you help to not contribute putting it on others. Putting it in perspective only working globally can we really start to make a difference of the millions of pieces of plastic out there on our earth. Not to implore we save the world, but a few different life style changes really can make a difference and here’s how.
On a Global spectrum not everybody makes it to a leisurely day at the beach, however with all the fast food chains booming at our convenience most Americans find themselves at a drive thru at least once a week. Economic stature can be a ruling factor in fast food consumption leading a study on fifth and eighth graders in a Journal for obesity showed the weekly frequency to be roughly at least two times a week (Khan). With myself as a mom and college student I find myself with a lazy day here and there, and McDonald’s on my menu. Although obesity is a separate issue, there lies another in our local fast food establishments, that is the use of plastic. When you stop and think how we enjoy that coke from McDonald’s remember the plastic straw that is easily discarded? It can take up 400 years to break down, they’re simply discarded and piling up. To be an advocate in the fight against plastic we can simply refuse the straw or help spread awareness of the plastic the world simply cannot consume. McDonald’s in the UK has declared to ban plastic straws in hopes to start a change with biodegradable paper straws instead. (Rosane). Small steps forward such as banning straws or simply refusing them can help the straw epidemic being the fifth most common beach trash found worldwide.
More publicity is being spread of the damage and space plastic is taking on the earth. Instead of refusal of straws in an eating establishment, a cleaver innovative product is underway. Emma Cohen and Miles Pepper are founders of a soon to be made product called “Final Straw” on the mission to exile plastic straws everywhere. The product is a collapsible straw with a carrying case convenient enough to hook on your car keys. To take it a step further this wonderful alternative comes with five plastic awareness cards to help spread the word of getting rid of plastic straws. According to Final Straw creators “one of these straws can help reduce five hundred and eighty-four straws from ending up in our oceans” (Cohen).
Regrettably without the proper availability of recycling plastic statistically it is mostly affecting our oceans. Shorelines are a number one place plastic is claiming it’s victims. Rendering the effects of plastic pollution at the shore plastic-pollution.org informs us of what it means for the ocean animals. From the whale, sea lions, and birds to the microscopic organisms called zooplankton, plastic has been, and is, greatly effecting marine life. Even those on or off the shore, whether by entanglement or ingestion. A 2006 report Plastic Debris in the World’s Oceans, Greenpeace stated that at least 267 varied species have suffered entanglement and ingestion of plastic debris, and estimated killing of 100,000 marine mammals annually, millions of birds and fishes. This affects us by poisoning our water’s, marine ecosystem, and our oceanic food source. One effortless way to help the plastic pollution fight on our shorelines is to start recycling. Another great alternative is to join a beach cleanup event, yes, it is free community service to help the creatures that share the earth with us. They would appreciate it and after an exhausting day clean up you get to breath the fresh salty air, who doesn’t like a breath of crisp air?
In an article found in “The chemical Engineer” states the persistent issue of how our waste is taken care of. The disposal of our waste is managed by being incinerated. However, this proposes a problem with certain regions with regulations of burning un-contained fossil fuels. On one hand we are trying to manage one problem by creating another on our environment. The un-contained fossil fuels cause carbon dioxide to pollute the air, even worst when plastic is involved. Plastic waste contributes a significant factor in waste management by burning plastic encapsulated among the municipal solid waste we put in our black bin (Freegard). With our waste management still causing a negative effect on the environment, we can make a difference by simply sorting our waste and recycling at home.
Awareness is the first vital step in reducing our plastic consumption we are feeding our earth. Knowledge is power that can spread like a virus, an epidemic that should be embraced. Slowly plastic pollution is being recognized, we are taking a stand to help the environment and desperately need more on the journey for solutions. Those like Toby McCartney, Marcrebur a UK native and CEO whose inspiration is to recycle plastic into our roads. McCartney’s proposed idea is cost effective to break down plastic as beads incorporated into asphalt to help repair damaged roads. Marcrebur states “Because it’s so new, it captures people – because it’s so green. We find that one of the things people talk about the most are the pothole problems, and then also enlightening people about the problem of waste plastics,” he says. MacRebur’s product in question, however, is impressive across all three aspects of cost, environment, and performance. In practice, it replaces up to 25% of the bitumen added to rock aggregates in asphalt manufacture with waste plastics. The beauty of it all is the fact that product doesn’t have to travel far. MacRebur’s ties with the right people on board suggests there’s enough plastic around the world that you don’t need the cost of shipping materials. Selling his idea to asphalt manufacturers ensures that every ton of asphalt it buys includes waste plastic, and it is helping the company open a processing plant at a port being regenerated in Workington. This will allow MacRebur to take delivery of waste from around the country, where it can be processed and then returned and applied where it was initially collected (Clark). I say that MacRebur’s solution could be a great cost effective one that I hope more will recognize and hopefully adapt to around the world. An idea that can create stronger roads and solve some of the plastic waste we harbor everywhere.
The more we know the better we can access the plastic crisis on the environment. Earlier I’ve discussed the nuisance of unrecyclable plastic straws. Unfortunately, plastic straws aren’t the only “individual use” plastics out there. Many products we get in our grocery stores are inhabitants of individual use packing. The plastic packaging end up being discarded because they can’t be recycled adding on to our plastic pollution. My recommendation for contributing less plastic waste is to buy your products in bulk. Places like Costco and Sam’s club are known for getting bulk items which can help the cause, however you do have to purchase a membership to shop at these places. If money is an issue places like Wal-Mart and WinCo foods offer bulk items without the price of a membership. Just like the mission of the “Final Straw” reducing buying more disposable plastic help end the pollution.
Mahatma Ghandi once said “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” And that’s how we can make a difference for our planet. It starts with one of us that can spark a domino effect in others to help end plastic pollution. We as individuals have the power to make a difference, make the change you want to see in the world.
National Geographic/Google/”Final Straw” Blog/Macrebur.com
Clark, Neil. “Rubbish Roads: A solution to the world’s plastic problem could be right under our feet.” The Chemical Engineer (2018): issue 921 p43-45. Article.
Cohen, Emma, Miles Pepper. Kickstarter. 2018. Blog. 15 May 2018.
Freegard, Keith. “Landfill vs Skyfill: How landfill might be the better option for disposal of low-grade plastics.” The Chemical Engineer (2018): Issue 922, p48-49. Article.
Khan, Tamkeen, Powell, Lisa M, Wada, Roy. “Fast Food Consumption and Food Prices: Evidence from Panel Data on 5th and 8th grade.” Journal of Obesity (2012): Vol. 2012 P1-8. Article.
Rosane, Olivia. EcoWatch. 03 May 2018. Article. 10 May 2018.
Seltenrich, Nate. “New link in the Food Chain? Marine Plastic Pollution and Seafood Safety .” Eviromental Health Perspectives (2015): A34-A41. Web.