By now we’ve all seen the photos of mountains of plastic garbage floating in the oceans and polluting coastlines around the world. Sea turtles are choking from plastic straws, and shorebirds are dying from ingesting plastic and have even been seen feeding it to their young.
Plastic has permeated our water supply, and now even our drinking water has a high risk of contamination with microscopic plastic—too small for the human eye to see, yet we may be ingesting this into our bodies daily.
I’ve never forgotten the scene with Andy McDowell from the 1990s movie Sex, Lies, and Videotape when she tells her therapist that she can’t stop thinking about all the garbage and where it’s going. We weren’t thinking so much about plastic then, even though there was certainly plenty of it. Andy was definitely on the right track.
Decades of single-use plastic consumption is piling up by the day. Only 9% of plastic is recycled worldwide. And for those of us who are dedicated recyclers, China has now stopped accepting plastic from the West. This means that American recycling facilities could have nowhere to go with the plastic they’re collecting.
We’ve got to collaborate globally and quickly for solutions to stop this madness, and stop producing all the unnecessary single-use plastic—the bags, straws, cups, lids, and water bottles—because people are either unaware or not willing to change their habits. But plastics are ubiquitous, and it won’t be simple. Think about walking down just one or two aisles of the grocery store with dairy, butter spreads, yogurt (including vegan), juice, peanut butter, shampoo, mouthwash, vitamins…all in plastic containers. The list is endless.
But we’ve got to start somewhere.
The small locally-owned health food store I shop at with just three locations has green biodegradable plastic produce bags and brown paper sacks. Contrast that with the big-box in Michigan with 242 stores that is likely giving out tens of thousands of plastic produce and single-use grocery bags each and every day.
So while we wait, hope, and vote for progressive leaders, what can we do?
Even if we change our mindset and self-discipline, just how much plastic and excess packaging can we realistically eliminate from our lives?
This is my first post on the plastic crisis as I work on changing my own habits and searching for alternatives to this plastic world we’ve become trapped in.