(Health Secrets) It is certainly time to reduce plastics in landfills! By now you have most likely read about or even seen the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a tragic byproduct of the plastics industry that is an island of garbage floating in the northern Pacific Ocean. Originally the size of Texas and still growing, this gargantuan pile of plastic is collected by currents that swirl around in a big circle in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Most of the debris is picked up from the shores of both China and North America that sandwich it.
Unlike the oil that leaked into the Gulf not too long ago, plastic is not biodegradable. Thus, it never goes away. Instead, it photo-degrades, eventually crumbling up into tiny bits. These bits of plastic enter the food supply and are passed from the jellyfish all the way back up to humans, who store it in their livers. Plastic also pollutes the water with BPA (Bisphenol-A) and PCB’s (PolyChlorinated Biphenyls), which are dangerous carcinogens and hormone disruptors.
While no one person is to blame, every person has contributed to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and it’s a safe bet the Atlantic also has one lurking somewhere. Whether one throws litter on the ground or trusts in the municipal trash companies to do it for them, everyone throws away plastic, and it ends up in the ocean and then back in their bodies.
While some say cleanup is impossible, hopefully someday someone will find a solution. Perhaps they will find a way to convert plastic to energy (it is made of oil, after all), and they can make a ship refueling station out there that will produce energy from plastic. Or perhaps nanotech robots can disassemble it and bring it to the recycler. In the meantime, there are many things people can do to at least help prevent this pile of garbage from getting any larger.
Ways to Reduce Plastics in Landfills
1) Avoid Products that use Plastic
Plastic is made from petroleum, hence it is so ubiquitous today. Plastic is convenient, but most of the cheaper grades (the clear stuff) find its way into our food, often leaving a film on anything that is wrapped in it which we then eat. Microwaving anything in plastic cooks plastic residues right into the food and vaporizes other chemicals that contaminate the food and air. Consider the amount of sheer waste a single meal or even a serving produces. (Kraft Singles is second only to individually wrapped breaths of air for the Most Wasteful Products Award). Reuse glass or Tupperware containers for leftovers instead of plastic wrap. Store water in the high grade blue plastic bottles only.
2) Kick the Bottle
High on the list of most wasteful products are individually wrapped drinks of water, a lingering 1990’s fad for those pretending to be health conscious. Picture a lake turning into a lake of plastic bottles, and that is basically what we now have in the Pacific. Corporations are taking over town aquifers and selling the water back to people for $2 per bottle. Shipping one bottle of water costs on average 1/3 bottle of fuel. It is best to filter or distill your own water and use metal or glass containers. Opt for tap water with lemon in restaurants. The wait staff seems trained to always supply a plastic straw with every drink, so remember to request no straw with your drink.
3) Recycle or Reuse Materials
Plastic can be recycled, and you will find that when you start recycling you at least save money on trash bags. Many containers can be washed out and reused (though they should be sterilized with apple cider vinegar).
4) Choose Products with Biodegradable Plastic
Now many plastic cups, along with packaging peanuts and other supplies, are available in a biodegradable form. Companies like Ecosafe and Natur-Tec are providing real solutions to the plastic problem.
5) Repair, Sell or Upgrade Gadgets
Most people run out and buy a new phone every year and discard their old phones and often dispose of them in the rubbish, where they not only add to landfill plastic but also leak out various other contaminants like mercury. Meanwhile older, larger components are often superior, as they tend to be constructed of much more solid materials. By taking pride in repairing your items you can keep things in top shape much longer. Tackle small problems when they arise. Take the time to fix things right. Buy used products when possible and sell or donate your items when they are no longer needed rather than tossing them. Buy products that offer replacement parts.
6) Recycle Computer Parts
If you must discard items like monitors or printers, at least take them to a recycler. Staples accepts old monitors and other items for a small fee.
7) Use Cloth Grocery Bags
It is important to avoid bringing home so many plastic bags. Some shoppers at the farmers market seem afraid to let any vegetables touch any other vegetables, insisting that each be individually wrapped. A better method is to use as few bags as possible, to reuse those taken, recycle them when they tear, and especially to avoid using them to begin with by bringing your own cloth or paper bag. Eventually this will save money, as stores are considering charging for paper bags.
8) Do Sweat the Small Stuff
The worst pieces of plastic are the tiny bits. These are the ones that birds, turtles and fish mistake for food, eat and then can’t pass them. Eventually these poor animals become full of plastic and they die of starvation, or they are consumed by larger animals and the process continues. After these animals die, the plastic is the only part that is left behind to kill again.
9) Don’t be a Litter Bug
Many feel that if they don’t litter, they will be putting the garbage man out of a job. Some will simply chuck their used car batteries (full of sulfuric acid) into the woods behind their home. The truth is that this debris will persist for decades, and humans leave enough of a footprint on the environment as it is, without adding insult to injury. In the 1970’s there were TV commercials with Woodsy Owl reminding us to “Give a Hoot Don’t Pollute.” In today’s corporate controlled media, the best we get is talk about carbon tax.
10) Clean up your Neighborhood Ponds
Many neighborhoods have small ponds containing water that is cleaner than their municipal tap water. These ponds are often teeming with fish and turtles that help keep them clean. Sadly, however, these ponds (and wildlife) are also normally loaded with plastic debris. By taking 15 minutes each week, one person can really help clean up his or her neighborhood. The process is surprisingly relaxing, and the animals will appreciate it.
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