When I see videos like this:
I cannot rest. Plastics continue to pollute our oceans. Human ambivalence is choking ocean life. Without healthy oceans and the creatures that live within, WE are toast — well done on both sides toast.
I began recycling in the early 1990’s when I lived in a condo in Arlington, Virginia. Just six of us residents at the condo designed the first curbside recycling program in Arlington. Working with our local/traditional waste hauler we succeeded to educate the area participants and this hauler soon became a millionaire as this recycling program gained traction.
Back then most people mindlessly tossed human-generated waste into the weekly bin and never gave it another thought. In 2008, I watched a PBS documentary entitled Carrier and was horrified to see what just one aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz (CVN68), was dumping into the ocean. These floating warships carry 6,000 + crew, sixty jets, and are deployed for months at a time. (This multi-series film is available online.)
In response to my 2008 concerns/letter, a Rear Admiral US Navy Director of Environmental Readiness replied with a two page document assuring me that many recyclables are merely shredded, placed into burlap bags, and discharged into the sea. This statement alone is one version, yet recorded in the documentary, aluminum cans (one example) and food waste were just dumped directly into the sea. The Rear Admiral concluded…”These bags sink to the bottom of the sea and are slowly assimilated into the environment without harm.” Right.
Today, over a decade later, there are few fingers pointing at the environmental damage being done to our oceans by seagoing vessels of any kind. Just think how many ships are on our oceans at any one time. Can you guess?
Additionally, laws to restrict fishing gear are slow to protect our large mammals who suffer a slow death at sea from entanglements. Just search online to view these horror stories.
Landlubbers and third world countries are casting waste into waterways without conscience. Are you with me on this?
Ok, so in 2020 how can we, as individuals, do better with our consumption and waste?
This is what I do already:
- I do not hire a single stream waste hauler. Since 1/3 of household waste is kitchen based (and compostable), I collect all my organic kitchen waste into compostable bags, and carry weekly to my local recycling center.
If you think about your garbage, wet kitchen waste contaminates dry recyclables (cardboard and pasteboard) and both wind up in the landfill. If you have room to compost your kitchen waste at home (for your gardens), there is plenty of info online. If your waste hauler offers a separate bin for kitchen waste/compostables, sign up.
- My community (150K population) has one designated location with large bins for source separation/recycling: Two for different plastics, and the others are for cardboard, pasteboard (cereal boxes) and mail slicks, office paper, glass, oyster shells (for repopulating the Chesapeake), mixed metals, and aluminum cans. Christmas trees are also collected and shredded into mulch for residents to use. See my blog post on that topic here…https://dianelasauce.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/the-little-recycling-center-that-could/
- Recently our plastics collection changed, excluding ALL plastics above #2. Therefore all those yoghurt/butter/spread/single serve/you-name-it containers now ALL GO TO A LANDFILL AND TAKE THIS LONG TO BIODEGRADE: https://www.thebalancesmb.com/how-long-does-it-take-garbage-to-decompose-2878033
- Even black tinted #2 plastics are rejected. So all those pretty meat packages at grocery stores, yup, head to the dump around here. I wrote to Jeff Bezos to let him know, hoping WFM will discontinue the use of black #2 packaging. Amazon’s reply was that “regional” was informed. I will follow up.
In larger metropolitan areas around the world, there are waste-to-energy facilities where most/all waste is incinerated. Here is a link…https://www.prescouter.com/2017/10/waste-to-energy-technologies-available/
So if you do have a way to dispose of your waste by source separation in lieu of single stream, please make an effort. Source separation is highly more efficient and this effort can be a teaching moment for your children. Our trash does not simply “vanish” at curbside.
How we shop and handle our waste has consequences.
AS of 2020 I decided NOT to buy any food/dairy in single use plastic containers or any container that cannot be recycled. (I now cringe when I see walls of dairy in stores…all in non-recyclable plastic!) This also includes single-use, plates, utensils, produce bags…the list goes on infinitum.
Why not make your own yoghurt/cottage/cream cheeses and give up those products packaged in plastic? Glass makes a great storage container and they are all the rage now with secure, reusable BPA free lids.
Please be aware that plastic straws and balloons are both toxic to the environment and wildlife. Many marine mammals and shore birds suffer horribly from straws and entanglement from both the actual balloon and cords. When balloons are ingested, the sea life can no longer dive.
Take action: Please insist that your coffee shops discontinue use of PLASTIC straws…and forego those balloon releases…this act simply releases garbage into the air, rivers, and oceans causing havoc worldwide. Carry your own reusable coffee mugs to your barista.
This year I will continue to use both cloth/reusable produce bags and cloth totes every time I shop. If you do nothing else this year, discontinue using plastic grocery bags of any kind. Ask your local grocer to stop offering them. OR boycott all stores who use plastic bags. I will continue dialogue with markets like WFM, Trader Joe’s, and monster retailers like Kroger and Walmart. You too can make a difference…
Wow, have I lost you yet?
Since we are on the topic of water…water is a nonrenewable resource. If you read the links above, you can see first hand what is going on in our oceans and rivers.
When it comes to home keeping, we can make a huge difference by not wasting/polluting potable water. Try these:
- Do not leave faucets/hoses running.
- Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth and while soaping up in the shower.
- Collect cold water in the shower (as it turns to hot) in a bucket and use this to water your garden or houseplants.
- Fix any leaky faucets/toilets.
- Collect gray water from the kitchen and use it in the lawn/garden.
- Do not put any medications down the toilet or drain. Many local pharmacies take back unused RX or OTC medications for free.
- Do only large batches of laundry. Hand washing small items can be fast and water efficient if done rarely.
- Use EWG.org approved soaps, detergents and cosmetics.
IF we all commit make small changes to our busy lives, both we, our families, and our planet will benefit.
A bit of good news: https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/mushroom-fungi-packaging-ikea-decompose-ecovative/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=share&_branch_match_id=747486552494622072
Your thoughts are appreciated in the comments section. As mentioned previously, I do not profit from mentioning sites or links.
Has this post inspired you to make changes? IF so, please share this post and inspire your friends to make changes too.
This blog is intended solely for education and inspirational purposes.
Copyright © 2020 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved