We now have plastic in our water and in the fish we eat. Do we really want to put plastic fibers into our bodies every time we eat and drink?
I have three simple thoughts about litter and recycling today: First, countries that have less plastic have less litter. Second and third, if everyone would recycle more, and change the plastic bag habit, it would make a big difference on our planet.
Here is an interesting plastic comparison for you. This is based on observation during the past month while I have been travelling through Central Asia and Iran. Central Asia uses very little plastic except for black plastic bags for purchases and plastic bottles for soda. Iran by contrast uses lots of plastic. Beside plastic bottles, restaurant food, hotel towels, and many things that don’t need to be, are wrapped in plastic. Plastic cups and straws are used in Iran, but I saw none in Central Asia. Where would you guess there is a terrible litter problem? The contrast was enormous. I brought Iranian plastic home to recycle.
Governments clearly need to become aware of the problem, and businesses like Coca Cola need to take more responsibility for the plastic they produce.
While I was thinking about this I came across an excellent essay by ECOwatch with great suggestions for everyone (see below) But keep it simple and by recycling and reducing plastic bags you can make a big difference on our earth!
Complain to retailers. Pressure retailers to do away with over-packaging.
Support plastic bag bans, polystyrene foam bans and bottle recycling bills.
Use natural clothing fiber rather than synthetic clothing, as synthetic cloth releases plastic fiber in every wash cycle.
Choose to reuse. Neither plastic shopping bags nor plastic water bottles can be easily recycled.
Deposit return schemes are highly effective ways to reduce plastic bottle waste. In Germany, where a bottle-return program is in place, nearly 98 percent of plastic bottles are returned.
Recycle. If you must use plastic, try to choose #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE), which are the most commonly recycled plastics.
Avoid plastic bags and polystyrene foam as both typically have very low recycling rates.
Seek out alternatives to the plastic items that you rely on.
Pressure politicians. Governments should be funding research into microplastics and regulating and incentivizing changes in plastic production and consumption.
This summer I wished I could have given some of our rain to drought stricken North or South Dakota. Everyday on Lake Superior seemed to sprout a rain shower. When I read the water quality of Lake Superior wasn’t superior to other Great Lakes anymore, my first thought was of this summer’s rain. Because of the rainy summer, the lake level became very high, and this high water caused some of the soft lake banks to erode into the lake causing lake sediment. The streams running into the lake bring more sediment into the lake.
An unusual fact about Lake Superior: Many streams and rivers drain into the big lake, but only one river drains out of the lake, the St. Mary’s River, and that is regulated at Sault Ste. Marie. I know the water that flows out through the St. Mary’s River is complicated with many factors, but releasing more water from the lake could probably help water quality of Lake Superior. Read at St. Mary’s River.
We can all do better to protect the water quality this magnificent lake, and other lakes also.
Slowing down the water flow can help. Buffer strips of deep-rooted plants along streams and along the lake can reduce sediment run-off, and putting in rain gardens and rain barrels can also slow the water.
The below ideas for protecting our lakes is from the Superiorforum.org , Sigurd Olson Institute, Northland college, the EPA, and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative:
1 .Be conservative with your water use.
2. Recycle as much as you can with the 4 Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle and repair. And….NEVER burn trash.
3. Curb Yard Pollution. Put your lawn on a chemical-free diet!!
4. Stop aquatic invasives by cleaning plants and animals off your boat.
5. Plant native plants, and reduce turf grass.
6. Plant native trees According to Audubon, oak trees are the best for attracting insects and birds.
7. Install a rain barrel
8. Create an energy-efficient home.
9. Bring hazardous waste to waste collection sites.
10. Love our lakes!
I would add a few more:
Plastics have become a big problem for our waterways. Reduce plastic use and be sure any plastic-use is recycled. Also remember to say, “No straw please!”
Micro-fibers in our clothes also are polluting our waterways. As of yet there isn’t a good solution. Read about micro-fibers here.
Always pick up litter.
The water we have on earth is the only water we will ever have, we must take care of it!
This morning while walking around the lake by my house, I was sad to see plastic bottles bobbing around in the lake. The amazing thing is that those plastic bottles from a lake in land-locked Minnesota could end up in the Gulf of Mexico. 80% of marine litter originates from land. The Minnehaha Creek drains this lake into the Mississippi River, which flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Plastic in a Minneapolis lake, could float the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico, these plastic bottles and bags are a dangerous threat to marine life, and they are unpleasant to water recreation.
I am sure you know most of the ways to avoid plastic, but you might learn something from this list on reducing plastic use. The excellent list below is from the NRDC https://www.nrdc.org/:
“Plastic, of course, is uniquely problematic because it’s nonbiodegradable and therefore sticks around for a lot longer (like up to 1,000 years longer) than other forms of trash. And we’re not just talking about people dumping their garbage overboard. Around 80 percent of marine litter actually originates on land—either swept in from the coastline or carried to rivers from the streets during heavy rain via storm drains and sewer overflows.
So the best thing we can do to protect our waterways is trying to keep as much plastic as possible out of the waste stream in the first place. The good news? There are many small ways you can have a big impact.
1. Wean yourself off disposable plastics.
Ninety percent of the plastic items in our daily lives are used once and then chucked: grocery bags, plastic wrap, disposable cutlery, straws, coffee-cup lids. Take note of how often you rely on these products and replace them with reusable versions. It only takes a few times of bringing your own bags to the store, silverware to the office, or travel mug to Starbucks before it becomes habit.
2. Stop buying water.
Each year, close to 20 billion plastic bottles are tossed in the trash. Carry a reusable bottle in your bag, and you’ll never be caught having to resort to a Poland Spring or Evian again. If you’re nervous about the quality of your local tap water, look for a model with a built-in filter.
3. Boycott microbeads.
Those little plastic scrubbers found in so many beauty products—facial scrubs, toothpaste, body washes—might look harmless, but their tiny size allows them to slip through water-treatment plants. Unfortunately, they also look just like food to some marine animals. Opt for products with natural exfoliants, like oatmeal or salt, instead.
4. Cook more.
Not only is it healthier, but making your own meals doesn’t involve takeout containers or doggy bags. For those times when you do order in or eat out, tell the establishment you don’t need any plastic cutlery or, for some serious extra credit, bring your own food-storage containers to restaurants for leftovers.
5. Purchase items secondhand.
New toys and electronic gadgets, especially, come with all kinds of plastic packaging—from those frustrating hard-to-crack shells to twisty ties. Search the shelves of thrift stores, neighborhood garage sales, or online postings for items that are just as good when previously used. You’ll save yourself a few bucks, too.
6. Recycle (duh).
It seems obvious, but we’re not doing a great job of it. For example, less than 14 percent of plastic packaging is recycled. Confused about what can and can’t go in the bin? Check out the number on the bottom of the container. Most beverage and liquid cleaner bottles will be #1 (PET), which is commonly accepted by most curbside recycling companies. Containers marked #2 (HDPE; typically slightly heavier-duty bottles for milk, juice, and laundry detergent) and #5 (PP; plastic cutlery, yogurt and margarine tubs, ketchup bottles) are also recyclable in some areas. For the specifics on your area, check out Earth911.org’s recycling directory.
7. Support a bag tax or ban.
Urge your elected officials to follow the lead of those in San Francisco, Chicago, and close to 150 other cities and counties by introducing or supporting legislation that would make plastic-bag use less desirable.
8. Buy in bulk.
Single-serving yogurts, travel-size toiletries, tiny packages of nuts—consider the product-to-packaging ratio of items you tend to buy often and select the bigger container instead of buying several smaller ones over time.
9. Bring your own garment bag to the dry cleaner.
Invest in a zippered fabric bag and request that your cleaned items be returned in it instead of sheathed in plastic. (And while you’re at it, make sure you’re frequenting a dry cleaner that skips the perc, a toxic chemical found in some cleaning solvents.)
10. Put pressure on manufacturers.
Though we can make a difference through our own habits, corporations obviously have a much bigger footprint. If you believe a company could be smarter about its packaging, make your voice heard. Write a letter, send a tweet, or hit them where it really hurts: Give your money to a more sustainable competitor.” NRDC
I would add one thing to the list. Never use Styrofoam! Some stores package fruits and vegetables on Styrofoam trays! Awful.
Finally, current status of the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities from Friends of the Mississippi.
This shouldn’t surprise me, but I am upset to read about the plastic trash in the Arctic Ocean. Plastic trash is now so ubiquitous that researchers have found hundreds of tons of it floating in the Arctic Ocean. Read the whole story here.
Why shouldn’t I be surprised by this? The “local control” advocates, in the Minnesota legislature are trying to derail Minneapolis’ plastic bag ban from happening later this year. I have just returned from a road trip to Washington, D.C. and I found only a few places to recycle along the way, most on college campuses. I could go on and on about what I see throughout the world in regards to plastic trash. A sad story about a whale collecting all this plastic . Our earth has a massive problem!
Where are the companies that manufacture and make a profit on this plastic and Styrofoam when it comes to clean-up?
The oceans belong to all of us. No one has the right to pollute and trash the ocean or the rivers or lakes.
What can you do? Have plastic-free shopping trips by bringing your own containers, and never purchase products on Styrofoam trays. 2. Encourage your community to put up and maintain recycling containers. 3. Pick up trash on your walks. 4. Recycle everything you can. 5. Always bring your reusable bags shopping.
Last, a remote Pacific island has become a reservoir for the waste of the world as it piles onto this pristine island.
Last year I did a series on reducing waste over the holidays. Read it here Maybe just do one thing different this year.
Below is from the Minnesota Pollution Control:
The presents have been opened and the festivities are over. What’s to be done with all the stuff and waste that’s left? Are there eco-friendly ways to keep it out of the trash?
A lot, and you bet!
The EPA reports that garbage increases 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, and it’s not hard to see why. Drive down any street or alley in late December or early January and you’re likely to see trash bins and bags overflowing with holiday waste. Some of these materials have potential value, which can be lost when they hit the waste stream.
Even if your holidays weren’t the “greenest” on the block, there’s still time afterwards to engage the 5 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle, and Rethink.
On America Recycles Day, what commitment can you make to recycle more? I live in a community where my one-sort recycle bin is picked up bi-weekly and compost every week. It is easy!! However, every community has their own rules on recycling and composting. Find recycling information for your community http://earth911.com/
It is a horrible to waste valuable resources by putting recyclables in the landfill where they might sit for hundreds of years(We don’t know how long plastic will last, maybe forever in tiny pieces!)
Yesterday I was at the public library in Superior, Wisconsin. I was impressed with an educational display by Wisconsin Coastal Management . They had a large display of trash that a student group had picked up from a one day beach trash pick-up from a local Lake Superior beach. Ideas from the trash collected created an educational poster for the public. Plastic breaks into tiny bits, is eaten by our fish, and probably will last hundreds of years, maybe forever!