When recycling was beginning to be a requirement on a national level, there was much ado about how it was all going to work. People all over this country were involved in the idea that what they were doing was important and would be useful for generations to come. How recycled products would be labeled, what types of material were to be used to be ‘post-consumer’ content and at what percentages. What is post consumer waste? What percentage of post consumer product could you use, was it safe? What would standard be? Who would enforce this? Does the Federal Government have a responsibility to do this? Do they have the right? A lot of work was put into the entire process.
And yet, according to the EPA, only 7% of the plastic that is created – gets recycled. For some really good reading the 1990 report to Congress by the EPA titles,”Methods to Manage and Control Plastic Waste“. In the meantime understand this – as a species we suck at cleaning up after ourselves. And this my friends is creating a massive problem for our world. These problems are not just land based problems like, “our landfill is full, can we send our garbage to yours?” While this happens all the time in the Midwest (garbage from cities like Chicago travels out of the city and even into Wisconsin. Unfortunately, not all states have space where they can send their trash. So what happened to all the garbage from a city like say, New York when there is no landfill space? They took it out to sea, an activity that eventually ended in the 90’s.
ARE YOU OUTRAGED? You should be. Just in case you didn’t catch the earlier point, let me repeat it for you. The City and State of New York authorized barges of trash to be sent out to sea. A practice that is known to exist for over 100 years. You and I can be sure they aren’t the only ones. This might not have been a major issue at first, however since the creation of plastic in the 1850’s, we have been throwing it in the ocean.
So now we have organizations like 5 Gyres Institute who are seeking to understand how the ocean is impacted by this trash and promoting, like this author, to increase recycling methods while reducing the amount of plastics we purchase. Unfortunately the problem has become a beast of it’s own as we have come to discover that there are more than 5 major garbage patches in our oceans. The main ones are flowing along our worlds major oceanic currents, known as gyres. These ocean currents are so strong and regular that the water carries everything that we throw in them. Greenpeace published a whitepaper sometime in the last 5 years titled,” Plastic Debris in the Worlds Oceans.”
What can I do?
The point of all of this is simple. You purchase plastic on a daily basis. There truly is no way around it. Companies have concluded that you won’t do anything about it in the form of not purchasing their products and that articles like this will provide you with awareness that you will soon forget to act upon as soon as your hunger or schedule gets in the way. The first thing that each of us can do is to make daily decisions to “Cut The Plastic out of our Lives”. Demand manufactures use post consumer products, that virgin plastics are labeled effectively, and remember it’s how you spend your money that speaks to companies the most. Stop purchasing products that are not made with the environment in mind, especially individually wrapped products. Buy in bulk, and send your kids to school or daycare with smaller plastic storage containers. Encourage recycling at work, places you shop, and demand it in your home. Maybe you are seeing this information for the first time, it’s ok if you weren’t educated about all of this before today. What matters is what you do from here on out. To quote G. I. Joe, “Knowing is half the battle.”