Earth Day 2018 — End Plastic Pollution

Plastics! That is the Earth Day theme this year and one I have been writing about for years (here and here). Not only can’t recycling solve this, but it has been estimated that less than 10% of plastics are even getting recycled.

The big problem is that plastic molecules do not decompose; they do, however, break down into teeny tiny pieces of plastic that find their way into the marine food chain. We need to care about this for many reasons, not the least of which is that toxins attach themselves to those tiny bits of plastic. Read more at “Polymers are Forever” by Alan Weisman.

But there may be good news! Perhaps that “forever” part will be needing an update. This year news arrived that wax worms (moth larvae, actually) can digest plastic (National Geographic, April ’18). This is true biodegradation.

Now comes word that plastic-eating bacteria have been identified (The Independent, April ’18).

The plastic bottles we throw away today will be around for hundreds of years. It’s one of the key reasons why the mounting plastic pollution problem, which is having a deadly effect on marine life, is so serious.

But scientists recently discovered a strain of bacteria that can literally eat the plastic used to make bottles, and have now improved it to make it work faster. The effects are modest – it’s not a complete solution to plastic pollution – but it does show how bacteria could help create more environmentally friendly recycling.

Still, we need to stop producing so much new plastic. Keep in mind, that, except for some early incineration, every piece of plastic ever created still exists!

In March, the Providence City Council voted to ban single-use plastic bags; Mayor Elorza followed up with a veto, stating that it would be a burden on the poor. I’m sorry but they will have to adapt. This is as serious as a heart attack — just take one minute and watch this horrific BBC video made recently in the Caribbean. (By the way, I have used the same totes for years now.)

As to plastic water bottles — they have been in the news as well, and in a way that may finally get the attention users who have not been persuaded by the environmental issue. (Business Insider, March ’18)

A new report from Orb Media reveals how major bottled water brands, including Aquafina, Dasani, Nestle and Evian all have tens, hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of microplastic particles floating in their products. These microparticles are typically about the same thickness as a single strand of human hair, and scientists don’t know yet what gulping them down might be doing to our bodies.

Seen here is “Sea Nettles” by Carol Lasch, associate professor of Experimental & Foundation Studies. This installation was in the recent Faculty Show at the RISD Museum. Nothing in the wall text suggests that the artist was making an environmental statement, but it did list the materials: Post-consumer cereal box liners, thread. (The Atlantic sea nettle is prey to sea turtles, ocean sunfish, and larger sea nettles.)

One last thing: there is still NO PROOF that humans need 8 bottles of water a day to stay healthy. This hydration myth has been propagated by none other than the bottled water industry. So don’t be a gullible Nestlé Waters dupe — you are wasting money and destroying the environment. This heinous multinational corporation does harm to the American environment in many ways (here and here and here.)

 

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