What Price Plastic!

Did you know that since 1950 more than 2 ½ percent of all plastic items ever produced can be found floating in the *Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This equates to about 100 million tons of plastic, and is about twice the size of the Continental United States. And, this is just one of five that currently exist.

If you are not aware of these floating islands of plastic or GYRES, as they are called; you should be.. There are currently five major ones: Indian Ocean Gyre,South Atlantic Gyre, North Atlantic Gyre, South Pacific Gyre, and the largest of the five – our very own North Pacific Gyre. They have been described as the world’s largest rubbish dumps; and it is starting to alarm our scientific community. They are vast area’s of floating plastic debris and other flotsam that get caught in these vortex‘s , and are held there by swirling ocean currents.

The facts are, less than 6 ½ percent of all plastic containers get recycled. Americans use 2 ½ million plastic bottles every hour, and most are simply thrown away. There are many reasons so much of the plastic we use does not get recycled, and the truth is it is much more complex than just throwing your discards into the recycle bin. Each type of plastic container needs to be recycled with it’s own kind, and the sorting process is complicated and at the end of the day, less than efficient.

www.ecologycenter.org in Berkeley reports that the plastic industry is giving out false recycling information to consumers to alleviate any concerns the public may have about such consumptive use of plastic containers; leaving people with a false sense of plastic being eco friendly. The truth of the matter – plastic is overwhelming our world…it is everywhere! The scientists who made it – failed to see how it could be broken down. They didn’t see the downside of a product that could last forever.

Why this is important & what can you do about it?

These floating plastic islands are having a devastating effect on our planet. They are destroying sea life, sea birds, and last but not least, finding their way onto our dinner table in the form of the fish we are consuming. We are literally poisoning our oceans, and it is responsible for the deaths of over a million seabirds a year. Hundreds of thousands of Albatross chicks die each breeding session because their parents are feeding them plastic; thinking it is food (seeing it toss about on the ocean surface like small fish). If we do not make significant changes, we are looking at the possibility of very little marine life surviving in the next 10 years, and it does not take much of a leap to figure out the impact on the human population.

So, what can you do????

A. Replace your bottled water habit with a re-usable/refillable BPA free container. This will not only help to save the planet, but it will save you $$$ over time.

B. Use products that come in glass: make choices to purchase products in glass jars or containers, whenever possible. Take your own re-useable containers to coffee shops.

C. Reuse containers: Plastic and Glass instead of tossing.

D. Be vocal. Contact the manufactures of products that you use regularly and advise them of your concerns. Believe me, if enough people make noise, they will listen.

E. Be persistent: contact your representatives and ask them to pass legislation to require recycling programs consistently in every city.

F If you are drinking bottled water, save the bottles and return them to a recycling center; or give them to somebody who will redeem them for cash or

G Have your water delivered in a reusable 5 gallon container. Good for the planet; cost effective and convenient. This averages 23 cents to refill a planet-friendly reusable 16 oz bottle versus purchasing store-bought bottled water at prices up to $1.00.per bottle.

H Buy foods that aren’t packaged, such as, fruits and vegetables. Shop Farmer’s markets for local produce that is fresher. Take your own re-useable bags, whenever and wherever you shop.

I Don’t buy plastic products, if at all possible. Opt for metal.

J Share this information with as many people as possible

Glass, paper and metal are pretty straight forward, and will go into the recycling bin. Make sure that they are clean or they will wind up in the landfill. Recycling is far better than sending waste to landfills and relying on new raw materials to drive the consumer economy. It takes two thirds less energy to make products from recycled glass, metal, paper and plastic than from virgin material. By the last official measure in 2005, Americans recycle an estimated 32% of their total waste, which averages nearly a ton per person per year, around a third of which is plastic. Our recycling efforts save the greenhouse gas equivalent of removing 39.6 million cars from the road.

Sorting is a crucial part of the recycling process. Plastic sorting can be done manually, but its tedious and labor-intensive. Automatic sorting is far more efficient, but the technology is not fool proof. However, the most important thing people can do is make sure that all food has been removed; otherwise the container will wind up in the landfill for sure.

Take this challenge: Walk into any grocery or department store and try to fill a grocery cart with individual products that are not made from, packaged or labeled with plastic. Though some products, like plastic bottles, have a recovery plan, most do not. Even fewer are truly recycled. Plastic lost at sea is an environmental and potential human health hazard. We must demand zero tolerance for plastic pollution. Reducing our consumption and production of plastic waste, and choosing cost-effective alternatives will go a long way towards protecting our seas, and ultimately ourselves.

Check out: www.5gyres.org The 5 Gyres Institute was co-founded by Marcus Eriksen and his wife Anna Cummins recently to study and communicate plastic pollution in the 5 large ocean gyres in the world. They are affiliated with Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which was founded by Charles Moore in 1994. www.algalita.org

The Algalita Marine Research Foundation is dedicated to the protection of the marine environment and its watershed. through education, research and restoration. They do this by: conducting research and collaborative studies on

1) Distribution, abundance and fate of marine plastic pollution.
2) Potential harmful effects of plastics in the marine environment, including the transfer of toxins and their impact on human health.

Captain Charles Moore of AMRF contributed the following: “The basic component of the marine food chain is being displaced by a non-digestible, non-nutritive component, which is actually out-weighing and out-numbering the natural food. That is a core issue.”

35% of the fish being hauled in have ingested plastic…thinking it is food. This “toxic food” is winding up on the dinner table. This is a serious problem world-wide.

Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer and leading authority on flotsam, has been tracking the build-up of plastics in the seas for more than 15 years. He compares the trash vortex to a living entity: “It moves around like a big animal without a leash” When that animal comes close to land, as it does on the Hawaiian Archipelago, the results are dramatic. The Garbage Patch barfs, and you get a beach filled with this confetti of plastic. About one-fifth of the junk – which includes everything from footballs and kayaks to lego blocks and carrier bags- is thrown off ships or oil platforms. The rest of the plastic junk comes from land. People are not discarding their plastic discards properly.

Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. What can you do to lighten your “plastic footprint?” The health of the planet and the health of mankind are inextricably linked – we can’t have one without the other. For the long-term health of Planet Earth, it is crucial that we tackle this serious problem now.

Healthfully Yours,

Barbara Charis

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