There has been a lot of news coverage of the huge amount of garbage, particularly plastic, that is finding its way into our rivers and seas. The most talked about example of this is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Pacific Trash Vortex. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an area of floating trash estimated to be in excess of 600,000 square miles, or twice the size of the state of Texas, and weighing 3.5 million tons.
According to the non-profit organisation, the last plastic straw, 80% of all marine debris found in the ocean is land based, and 80-90% of the marine debris is made from plastic.
United States of America, not unsurprisingly, is one of the worst contributors and:
- Makes up 5% of the world’s population
- Consumes 30% of the world’s resources
- Creates 30% of the world’s waste
It is not just large plastic items that are causing issues, there is also a threat from microplastic particles, small slithers of plastic 5 mm or less in length. These come in the form of microbeads found in cosmetics that have been washed down the sink and clothing fibers that get flushed into sewage systems after synthetic clothes are machine washed. (CNN Article).
The fact is plastic is bad for the environment and for us! Plastic waste presents many problems:
- Plastic never goes away.
- Plastic piles up in the environment.
- Plastic spoils our groundwater.
Plastic poisons our food chain.
- Plastic attracts other pollutants.
Plastic affects human health.
- Plastic threatens wildlife.
*Above is from the Plastic Coalition website.
There are quite a number of initiatives around the world to try and combat the threat of single-use plastics. The focus of this story is one specific contributor to the plastapocalypse, the humble drinking straw! In the United States alone, over 500,000,000 plastic straws are used each day.
There are a number of organisations that have sprung up with the mission of reducing the consumption of plastic straws. This list includes:
Well when it comes to plastic straws what can we do?
- REFUSE disposable plastic whenever and wherever possible. Choose items that are not packaged in plastic, and carry your own bags, containers and utensils. Say ‘no straw, please.’
REDUCE your plastic footprint. Cut down on your consumption of goods that contain excessive plastic packaging and parts. If it will leave behind plastic trash, don’t buy it.
RECYCLE what you can’t refuse, reduce or reuse. Pay attention to the entire life cycle of items you bring into your life, from source to manufacturing to distribution to disposal.
- REUSE durable, non-toxic straws, utensils, to-go containers, bottles, bags, and other everyday items. Choose glass, paper, stainless steel, wood, ceramic and bamboo over plastic.
Another big thing we can do is get the message out there by being an activist. This could be simply joining or participating with one of the action groups listed above, writing to businesses who regularly push straws on their customers or simply makes friends, family and colleagues aware of the issue. There is a movie that has been made on the subject called simply STRAWS by Linda Booker, which can be rented to be shown to people in your community, such as schools.
OUR PERSONAL ACTION:
In our house we’re not big users of straws but we still felt the need to join the movement. So, we finally bit the bullet and purchased some stainless steels straws and they are great. If you prefer something different there are other re-usable straws out there made from other materials, such as silicone, glass and even bamboo. Here are a couple of articles that discuss some of the many options out there.
One our personal favourites is the “Finalstraw”, a collapsible straw, which makes it ideal for carrying around. The inventors are currently running a kickstarter fundraiser to get it into production. Putting some money into this is another way of making a contribution to the cause.
Here is a YouTube video on the FinalStraw
Anyway, I hope having heard the threat to our oceans and the health of people from the careless disposal of single-use plastics and will try to reduce your personal consumption.