Stop single-use plastics before they kill us all
Here’s a fun thought: every piece of plastic ever made still exists somewhere. Most microorganisms can’t process plastic — it takes hundreds if not thousands of years for one plastic bottle in a landfill to break down into something useable for the environment.
Yet we keep making more. Because the way our screwed-up economy works, it’s cheaper to create new petroleum products than recycle what’s here. Which is already way too much, btw.
Almost 25 million tons of plastic packaging flows into our seas each year – that’s like dumping a garbage truck of plastic waste every minute! 700 species of marine life are facing extinction, thanks to plastic pollution. If you check the stomachs of leatherback sea turtles, one in three will have plastic bags in their stomach. 73% of all beach litter, everywhere, is plastic.
All this plastic litter in our oceans is problematic for another reason: it’s not biodegrading because plastics don’t do that, they “photodegrade” in the sun’s UV/UBV rays, which breaks them into minute particles. These microplastics tend to sink to the ocean floor, where they’re taken up by filter-feeders like tiny crabs, mollusks and barnacles who later become meals for bigger fish (who are, themselves, prey for bigger marine predators).
PCB’s, heavy metals other toxins add up with increased exposure and consumption of microplastics. By the time a piece of tuna or swordfish gets to your plate, it could’ve accumulated a surprising variety of chemicals your palate will never detect. Microplastics go back down the food chain too – when ingested, we pass them into our sewer systems where they flow to our waterways and back out to our oceans again. It’s like the opposite of the Circle of Life!
Today, 94.4% of US tap water contains plastic fibers. A recent study by the World Wildlife Fund found that we’re eating or breathing in the equivalent of one credit card per week in microplastics – that’s more than half a pound a year. Of plastic. That’s shedding random petroleum byproducts into our body on its way through. Great, right?
It gets better! Science is tracking a phenomenon literally called the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” where trash from all over the globe has collected into an immense swirling soup of plastic refuse in various stages of decay. Could there be a more graphic indication that we’re overwhelming our oceans? We need to act now to protect the planet – and ourselves. Recycling isn’t the answer, we need to stop plastic at the source.
In addition to demanding legislation to hold plastic producers responsible for their waste, we can encourage local businesses to provide better options than single-use plastic packaging. And maybe clean up after themselves, when they see their circulars & door-hangers blowing down the streets? Newspapers, too.
We regularly field calls from neighbors complaining about plastic-wrapped East Falls NOW’s cluttering curbsides every month – whoops, that’s not us it’s Community Council, who by the way reports at meetings that their publication is quite profitable. Perhaps they’d consider investing some of this ad revenue into a more environmentally-friendly delivery system? Or maybe hire someone to collect and responsibly dispose of discarded copies?
Plastic litter is unsightly, unhealthy and unequivocally a problem for us all. As neighbors, we have a right to request that the organizations serving us put forth every effort to set a green example.
END NOTE: No, you can’t opt out of EFCC’s monthly delivery — technically, community news is considered free speech. Judges tend to rule that a person’s right to leave their paper on everyone’s doorstep is protected under the First Amendment (and therefore not subject to litter laws).
However, if you’d like to stop receiving advertising leaflets and circulars, you can register your address with L&I to get an official “Circular-Free Property” decal. Once you put it up, you can report any businesses that still leave promotional materials and L&I will fine them $100.
Theoretically, at least. Enforcement from what we’ve heard is pretty iffy but then, the sticker is free so what have you got to lose?
Download the simple form here (basically they just want your name, address & signature). Return the form by email firstname.lastname@example.org, fax 215-686-2502 or mail to:
Circular-Free Property Coordinator
1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd
Philadelphia PA 19102
Let us know how it works out!
Love the article!