Plastic – a modern invention to make our lives better. In some ways, it does; but waste plastic is threatening our very existence.
Did you know that the Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) group does regular volunteer clean-ups on the island of St. Maarten? They report that on average, St. Maarten volunteers pick up at least 250 pounds of trash every clean-up. Well, just this past November, they surpassed this record. Yep, the volunteers collected 754 pounds of trash in just one and a half hours!
Shockingly, more than half of that collected trash was recyclable material like glass bottles, plastic bottles and aluminium cans.
One of the first things we can all do to help eliminate this trash is to stop buying and using bottled water. This is called single-use plastic – you use it once and throw it away. This is wasteful! Much smarter to get a thermos. You can refill your thermos for free right from the tap! And if you are worried about the purity of the water, a simple filter will ensure that the water is clean and healthy. Or you can even get a water cooler with big reusable bottles of water delivered to you so the water is cold.
Now, why am I so against bottled water? Well, first, empty water bottles roll around and blow around, eventually ending up in the ocean. Once in the water, the bottles float. They stay up on the surface and can be mistaken for food by the fish and birds. They float around until they make their way to beaches and can interrupt wild animal habitat and make our beautiful tourist-beaches look like a dump.
So if occasionally you have to use a plastic water bottle, here’s what to do when it is empty: Take the top off; place the bottle on the ground; step on it; pick it up; put the top back on and try to get it recycled; or put it into a trash receptacle. Now that it is flat, it will not float and is a lot less likely to get into the water. We all need to work harder on making sure our waste is disposed of properly.
Did you see the Football World Cup? After each game, including the one Japan lost, the Japanese fans helped clean up the stadium!
Okay, there is one more thing you need to know. Do you wash your face with soap? Is it the bar type or a fancy liquid soap that has scrubbing bubbles in it to make your skin soft and smooth? Well, guess what. Those scrubbing bubbles are often made of tiny bits of ground up plastic, called micro plastics. They are so small they get into the water supply and are consumed by birds, fish and other animals and even people like you and me.
Plastic does not break down quickly. In fact, it takes decades. So the plastic you eat, but do not see, gets into your body and can stay there causing all kinds of health problems. Plastic may have been invented to help us, but it lasts too long, and affects wildlife and our naturally beautiful environment. We all need to work together to get it under control to help save the animals, us and even the planet.