Sunday, January 3, 2010

Personal actions will prevent contributing to the "Plastic Continent"

The other continent
Laura Rose

(From - When I heard about the "Plastic Continent" in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I have to admit that I thought it was just an urban myth or an overreaction by some extreme activists.

Much to my dismay, what I found by searching the Internet was that it was more of an understatement than an exaggeration. There it was "3.5 million tons of trash, 80 percent of it plastic" a mass twice the size of Texas. Yes, TEXAS!

At a cost of billions of dollars to clean up the mess, no country wants to take responsibility for it, and so it has continued to grow at a rate of tenfold per decade since 1950.

Sea turtles mistake plastic sandwich bags for jellyfish, and birds feed their young bottle caps and other plastic chards, unknowingly filling their stomachs to the point that they die of starvation. Beaches once scattered with drift wood and seashells are increasingly covered in plastic debris.

If you live in San Francisco, you now know why the Board of Supervisors, led by Ross Mirkarimi, outlawed the use of plastic bags in grocery stores and other retail outlets. Every city needs to follow their example and make this a priority.

Right now, there doesn't seem to be much that we can do about the garbage dump that churns between San Francisco and Hawaii, but we can do our part to keep it from growing.

1) Tell everyone you know about the Plastic Continent. The first step in solving any problem is awareness.

2) Use reusable shopping totes.

3) Get rid of the plastic sandwich bags in your child's lunch box, or at least reduce the number you use. Replace them with reusable containers or, at a minimum, rinse them and use again.

4) Buy a stainless water bottle. Make it a policy among friends and organizations to bring stainless bottles to soccer games and other sporting events and outings.

5) Write to your local, state, and national political leaders. Encourage them to outlaw the use of plastic bags. Know that lobbyists for plastic manufacturers are very influential; we need to influence with our letters and our votes.

6) Watch what you consume. Our lifestyle of constant consumerism and instant gratification hasn't just hurt our wallets, it's hurt our environment.

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