Saturday, December 27, 2008

Can you live plastic free?

There was an interesting article in today's Chicago Tribune titled "A Life Without Plastics?" The author tried to live one week without plastic. Not an easy task, but it is possible.

After reading the article I looked around my home to assess how much plastic I use on a daily basis. My life, like most Americans, is surrounded by plastic. Plastic is an amazing product. It can be made in any color or no color, any shape or size, can be made strong and sturdy, or light and flexible. It's air tight keeping moisture, air, and germs in or out. It keeps food from spoiling quickly, it makes easy to carry bags, it's shatter resistant, lightweight, sanitary, and inexpensive. It's no wonder that plastic is everywhere.

Unfortunately due to our disposable lifestyle, disposed plastic is harming the environment and it's time that we learn to cut back on it's use. Based on the article, although it is difficult to avoid all plastic, it is possible to greatly reduce that amount of plastic we use and throw out. Instead of liquid shampoo in a plastic bottle you can use a shampoo bar. Plastic water bottles can be replaced with stainless steel bottles. Household cleaning solutions can be replaced with vinegar, baking soda, and water which clean just as well and at a fraction of the cost. Reusable grocery bags can be used instead of plastic bags and fruits and vegetables can use the packaging nature provided them.

We may not be able to eliminate all use of plastic, but at least we can make a significant impact. Are you willing to give it a try?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Swimming in an ocean of plastic

ABC News aired a disturbing segment tonight on a gigantic trash dump known as the Pacific Ocean. The segment followed Charles Moore, captain of the private research vessel Alguita, part of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, who pursues the Pacific’s floating plastic. It turns out that large amounts of plastic that we dispose of every day, from bags, to food wrappers, to packaging, and much much more make its way into the ocean where it stirs breaking down into finer and finer particles. These particles of plastic are at every level of the ocean from the surface to the bottom. Animals get entangled in this plastic and ingest the plastic mistaking it as food. Plastic is now making its way up the food chain. Small plastic beads are mistaken as fish eggs and ingested by fish and jellyfish which in turn are eaten by sea turtles and larger fish including many of the popular fish we dine on. Not only do these plastic pellets not have any nutritional value, but they also act like sponges for toxic chemicals and killing off much of the sea life we depend on. Plastic is now even making up a large percentage of the sand in the area. Instead of ground up pieces of shell and coral the sand is now make up of ground up pieces of plastic.

Cleaning up this mess is a gargatuan task that no one can afford. But there is something that each of us can do to help reduce the amount of plastic making it's way into the oceans. For starters we can insist that manufacturers reduce the amount of plastic in their packaging by avoiding purchasing products wrapped in plastic. We can also contact manufactuers and insist that if they must use plastic packaging they use plastic made of celulose which breaks down quickly and is biodegradable. Additionally we should contact our govornmental representatives and insist they create stronger laws to punish companies and shippers for dumping waste in the oceans and hold those companies accountable for accidents and spills.