Blog post: Plastic Pollution
The interest in recycling has increased over the years, but there is still so much to do. Americans are now recycling 34 percent of the waste they create which is a 6.2 percent increase to 60 years ago. But Americans generate over 250 million tons of trash a year. That is about 4 pounds per person. Recycling 34 percent of 250 million tons means that 165 million ts of waste is still being dumped into landfills. Almost 1/3 of the waste that is disposed of in the US is packaging, primarily plastic packaging.
It is estimated that 50 million plastic bottles are thrown in the trash every day. About 18 billion disposable diapers are disposed of each year. Plastics do not biodegrade and these plastic materials will still be in the landfill 500 years from now. What about those Styrofoam cups and plates and packing materials, how long will it take for those to decompose? Styrofoam will take over 500 years if they even decompose at all. Scientists are unsure how long it will take for plastics and Styrofoam to decompose since both of these materials have only been around since the early 1900’s.
Plastics are polluting our land, waterways and oceans. Plastic debris can injure or poison wildlife if eaten and floating plastic waste can not only harm marine life if eaten but can affect their habitats. Thousands of seals and sea turtles have been killed due to ingesting plastic or by becoming tangled in the plastic waste.
There is mounting evidence that plastic products have chemical components that are harmful to people and marine life. Chemicals such as phthalates and Bisphenol A are found in bottles, food packaging, wall coverings, flooring and other plastic products. Exposure to these chemicals can affect the development of infants and children. Plastics in the ocean can, over the years, leach these and other harmful chemical into the water affecting swimmers, marine life and habitats.
Now let’s ask ourselves: How can we help with the amount and type of waste that is being dumped into the landfills and oceans? The EPA’s program Recycle, Reduce, Reuse has been in effect for numerous years. Children learn the phrase but it is up to the parents to ensure the process is put into effect. Limiting the use of plastic materials such as bags, plastic wraps, disposable cups and cutlery and even straws will aid in lowering the amount of plastic being disposed. Using a reusable water bottle rather than purchasing bottle water is another way to lessen the plastics entering our waste stream. And of course increasing the amount of recycling being performed is a major way of lowering plastic disposal. Let us continue to work to a healthier and happier planet.