Ever since a type of plastic called synthetic thermosetting plastic was developed in 1909 by Leo Hendrik Baekland, plastic has been a major material in everything we use. Food wrappings, computers, toys, and even clothes are made with plastic materials. Some people think that using lots of plastic in everything is a good thing to do, while others believe that this is an environmental hazard.
For years, plastic has been accumulating in landfills all over the world. It has also been littered on the ground, and in the ocean. In the Pacific Ocean, somewhere between Asia and North America, there is a humongous mass of garbage called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The patch is very large, estimated to be twice the size of Texas. You can’t see it from satellite images because it is mostly consists of small plastic debris, and a lot of it is underwater.
Every year, around 100,000 marine animals are killed by choking on or getting strangled by plastic bits, according to Marine Debris.gov.
You are probably thinking, “This sounds terrible. Why doesn’t someone do something about it?” The truth is, it would be very costly and time consuming to remove all the garbage. But to help reduce the amount of garbage that actually gets into the oceans, here are some things you can do.
- Bring your own grocery bag. Use cloth bags when you go shopping instead of accepting the stores’ plastic bags. Many stores, such as Fred Meyer and Trader Joes, sell sturdy reusable bags for as little as 99 cents.
- Buy items with less packaging. Instead of getting vegetables at a store where they wrap them in plastic, go to your local farmer’s market and buy them there. Or, you can grow your own foods, saving both money and plastic. Some items, such as flash drives, come encased in a giant square of plastic. You can try to avoid buying items such as this, but it might be harder.
- Watch out for what your clothes are made of. Nylon has plastic in it, and also things like raincoats and shoes. When it is necessary to buy petroleum-based clothing, consider buying them second-hand or eventually donating them for reuse instead of throwing them away.
I’m not saying that you should go completely plastic free, or devote your life to getting rid of plastic. I’m simply giving you another perspective to consider. When asked about the plastic issue and if they would participate in a challenge to not use disposable plastic for a week, these were some CMMS student’s responses:
Nora- “If you walk into a house you will find plastic. You think of an ocean as a big blue ocean.”
Saila- “For the challenge, I would definitely try; because I know it will help our planet. Every action counts. Everything you do to help the environment counts. Plastic became revolutionary. Plastic is in everything”
Sierra- “Yes. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to do it. I don’t have the time. It’s convenient and most things are contained in it. Re-use it a few times and then throw it away.”
Trevor- “No. Just because it’s a pain. There’s a lot more things that are more important.”
Kyah- “Yes. It would be interesting to see if it could be done to help conserve resources.”
Max- “No. Because it doesn’t matter. I don’t care that much. Convenience value is better than everything else.”
Miles- “No. Plastic make my life easier. I just don’t see the purpose of banning plastic.”
Mo- “Yes. I don’t like using plastic. We are using up all the oil. We are polluting the environment.”
Harrison- “No. Getting rid of plastic isn’t possible and if we did it would totally mess up out society and all human civilization.”
Jonas- “Yes. I would try. In reality it wouldn’t make much of a difference. It wouldn’t hurt to try, and who knows? It might spark something bigger.”
James- “It’s possible to try, maybe. It’s possible I would try it because plastic has a harmful effect on the environment.”
Jin- “I’m not sure. It’s good for the environment, but I like plastic.”