2013 – A Year to Change
Another New Year and another opportunity to resolve to eat better, spend extra time at the gym, save money, read a new author, or to spend more quality time with the family. All of which are great admirable resolutions for the new year and a lifetime. How about a resolution to not do something? I will not use plastic bags.
Plastic bags are terrible for the environment; they choke wildlife, add to the demand for oil, don’t break down in landfills, and they’re not easy to recycle. They clog waterways and are dangerous to marine animals. So why do we still use them? An estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used world-wide every year.
It is reported that 1 billion single-use plastic bags are distributed free of charge every day. Less than 1% of those bags find their way into the water, but that is still hundreds of millions of bags float out to sea every year. Sea turtles have become the poster animal for the impact of plastic in the ocean. The floating bags are often mistaken for jellyfish, a common food for the sea turtles who have lived one this year for the past 100 million years. Now, all seven species of sea turtles are in danger of extinction.
Unfortunately the problem is not just plastic bags however, it is all plastics. Water bottles, cups, utensils, straws; all of these inexpensive single use plastic items never fully biodegrade – they break down into smaller and smaller pieces but never completely disappear. These small pieces of plastic float around in the ocean indefinitely and are swallowed up (mistaken as food) by birds, fish, whales, sea turtles, mollusks, and crustaceans.
There is hope: This year alone the Boston suburb of Brookline banned the use of plastic bags by retail stores larger than 2,500 square feet. Mountain View, California and Portland, Oregon both banned single use plastic bags; Menlo Park, California has banned polystyrene containers and is currently working on a bag ban. Delhi, India is taking a huge stand against plastics. No person can manufacture, import, store, sell, or transport any kind of bag in the city; a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison plus a fine could await violators.
Even without a bag ban, you can make a big difference by not using plastic bags. One person can make a difference – 6 bags each week is 24 each month or 288 each year. Challenge ten of your friends – 2880 bags, your neighborhood – 57,600, your small community – 864,000. You can also take a stance on the bigger plastic issue by avoiding plastic-bottles beverages, buy products with minimal or reusable packing, use your own coffee mug when getting coffee, enjoy your beverage without a straw, ask the deli or meat department to wrap your items in paper, or use real silverware at parties rather than plastic.
5 Gyres mission is to end plastic pollution. Find out more and take the plastic promise on their website.