Yesterday I copied this striking video about plastic trash from the Nalgene website. 2.5 million plastic bottles per hour – that’s 60 million per day just from the United States. If you check out the rest of the story at Nalgene, they say that of about 35 million tons of plastic bottles (I suppose that must be yearly) only about 5 million tons are incinerated or recycled.
So, where does that stuff go? I think it was Eddy Harris in Mississippi Solo that I was reading recently that put it best – anything that is not nailed down eventually ends up in the ocean. The Nalgene video says that 40% of the ocean surface is covered with trash, of which 90% is plastic.
2.5 million bottles per day and 35 million tons of plastic per year are big numbers. A study in the journal, Science estimated it as the equivalent of 136 BILLION (with a B) milk jugs per year. Those are really big, depressing numbers!
So what can we do about that? How can I make a dent in that? The following are a few hints from a list of suggestions by the Natural Resources Defense Council with some commentary of my own…
- Wean yourself off disposable plastics – plastic grocery bags, plastic water bottles, plastic happy meal toys in plastic bags…
- Stop buying water – This is where Nalgene comes in.
- Boycott microbeads – What the hell is a microbead anyway? Well, it turns out that a lot of beauty products like scrubby exfoliants have tiny plastic beads in them. How could it even be more economical to manufacture microbeads instead of using salt or sand?!
- Purchase items secondhand – not only are you reducing the flood of new plastic products, but also the packaging that comes with all the new plastic thingies.
- Recycle (duh) – It has been tough in our area but it’s getting easier and better!
- Support a bag tax or ban – I don’t like the idea of more taxes, but sin taxes like this have been shown to be effective at changing behaviors.
- Buy in bulk – that is, more stuff with less packaging!
- Bring your own garment bag to the dry cleaner – or quit with the dry cleaning altogether. Come on, seriously! The chemicals will kill you and having a dry cleaned suit doesn’t make your corpse look any better.
Or you could do it the Roaming Parker way…
Those are all good hints, but my personal way of making a dent in the plastic trash problem is to make a solemn oath upon my sacred honor that I will never, ever – no matter the circumstances – I will never step over or past a piece of trash without picking it up.
And I expect my family and friends to make the same promise to themselves.
But what good will that do? When we pick up trash and throw it away we’re just putting it back into landfills where it eventually ends back up in the ocean. I figure its sorta like sequestering carbon – we are putting as much trash in one place as we can, where we can sort of control and minimize the damage it’s doing until we can figure out what to do with all this plastic before it kills us.
Plus, by keeping natural places clean it allows more people to see how beautiful and amazing this world is – and because of that experience those people might grow up to be our allies in the plastic wars!