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Single use plastics are the present and the future

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Single use plastics are the present and the future

Artwork by Hayley Beluch '18

Artwork by Hayley Beluch '18

Hayley Beluch

Artwork by Hayley Beluch '18

Hayley Beluch

Hayley Beluch

Artwork by Hayley Beluch '18

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Take a moment to imagine your daily routine, with emphasis on how often you come across plastic. Think of the plastic bags you use at the grocery store; the straws you get, often without asking, in most diners and restaurants; the water bottles you bring to school or work; even the coffee stirrers you use for your cup of joe every morning.  

  Each of these items has one thing in common: they’re single-use plastic.

  We, as humans, have created a society dependent on plastic because of our attachment to convenience. We’ve created a detrimental cycle that now, in a perverted way, makes it easier to concede to plastic than to utilize environmentally friendly alternatives. We, in summary, are destroying our earth just because we are lazy.

   When someone drinks a bottle of water or soda and throws away their bottle, it most likely ends up in the ocean, where it will take over 450 years to decompose. While it does, it releases toxins that damage marine species to the point that some marine wildlife are now born predisposed to pollution.

  In the oceans themselves (not including landfills or any land-based pollution), there are 51 trillion microscopic pieces of plastic, according to Surfers Against Sewage. That’s more than 500 times the number of stars estimated to be in our galaxy.

  It goes beyond the heartbreaking accounts of marine wildlife dying from suffocation from plastic bags and birds dying with plastic caps in their digestive tract. By 2050, according to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, there will be more plastic in the ocean by weight than fish.

  That’s why it’s more important than ever to look to the UK for guidance on how to reduce plastic waste so as not to damage our oceans and land at the same devastating rate we have been.

  Prime Minister Theresa May just announced a new part to the 25 Year Environmental Plan: the ban of all sales of single-use plastic. This includes plastic bags, Q-tips, and straws.

  This comes as a continuation of previous bans, including the fee on plastic bags that reduced plastic bag usage by 90% in the UK.  According to Forbes, that’s equivalent to 9 billion fewer plastic bags in circulation.

  According to May, “Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world,” which is why England has taken a full-frontal approach to decrease plastic usage.

  England is providing a successful example of how we as a society can reduce our polluted footprint to protect native species, while we—the United States—are moving backwards at high speed in terms of environmental protection.  

  Here we are, under a ignorant president who supports fossil fuel industries and denies climate change and under a head of the EPA that has a minimal background in science and reduces research on environmental damage every chance he gets.

  So where does that leave us? While we should be working as a country to follow in the footsteps of England, we can’t even come together to agree on the obvious fact that our actions have a negative impact on our earth and its species.  

  Instead of a holistic approach, we have fragmented efforts by states and cities to reduce plastic waste, without any support from the federal government. This ‘piecemeal’ approach has only contributed to six notable cities with bans on plastic bags and only six notable cities or counties with fees for plastic bags, according to the National Conference for State Legislation.

  It’s fallen to store owners to look for alternatives to single use plastic—if they’re so inclined.  Store owners in Malibu have opted for edible, pasta straws and certain other companies have moved towards recycling programs to reduce their footprint.

  But it isn’t enough. We are supposed to be the leader of the free world, and we are killing millions of animals and predisposing our children to plastic pollution from before birth.

  So I urge you all to take action, beyond what’s necessary. Write to your local representatives to move towards environmental protection. Just as importantly, stop using single-use plastic (or at least limit your usage). Opt for pasta straws or reusable straws you can buy online.  Use canvas bags at the grocery store. Replace all plastic in your life with a healthier alternative.

  It’s beyond saying lives depend on it. The fact that millions of animals die every year because of plastic pollution—that’s the established truth.  Live your life as you would if you were worried that your children might suffocate on plastic bags they mistake for food, or that you might tear open your intestines from the bottle caps you ingested by error.  Live like there’s a soda ring around your appendages, cutting off your circulation.

 If everyone lived like this, then maybe people would actually make a sizeable decrease in the use of plastic in our country and around the world. Maybe we could start to atone our pollution and create a safer world for all species that inhabit this earth.

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Single use plastics are the present and the future