Poisoning Ourselves With Plastic

It’s easy to overlook just how much plastic one uses day-to-day. But the earth is a closed system that notes every wrapper, foam cup, and throwaway bag on it’s very permanent record. And as the refuse breaks down it works its way back to us through the food chain.

Since the oceans act like a sponge the creatures living there consume the plastic bits left behind. While this isn’t recent news there has been some recent attention. Catalyst ABC’s Plastic Ocean piece explains the situation. Around half way through the video I began to take stock of how I have been unintentionally contributing to the problem myself.

Being ecologically minded I thought I was doing well by shopping with reusable bags, drinking from reusable bottles, and harvesting some tea and coffee grounds for composting. Living in a recycling community also helps reduce the problem. But they don’t accept plastic bags, wax paper, Styrofoam, or complex items like electronic gadgets.

When I began to consider everything I consume it became obvious there is more room to improve. During any given week my non-recyclable consumption breaks down as follows:

  • 4 plastic, single-cup, coffee containers
  • 4 plastic wrappers for tea
  • 3 plastic, vegetable wrappers
  • 2-3 thin, plastic, produce bags
  • 2 plastic, zip bags for nuts
  • 1 wax and cardboard fruit container

Given 52 weeks in a year that makes 754 items that have to go somewhere. One idea is to switch to tea that comes in paper wrappers but even that may not be the optimal considering how the paper is produced. Of course this isn’t the whole picture. There are also holiday gifts, treats offered, and packages purchased at various times throughout the year.

Reuse and recycling can help too. Though ultimately, the best solution is to reduce consumption. Saying ‘no’ to oneself and others can be awkward and occasionally painful. Yet if one wants to enjoy food, especially from the sea, without plastic contamination then the bigger picture must be kept in mind every time temptation arises.

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