Earth Matters: Choose to refuse single-use plastics

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Summer invites us to spend more time outside enjoying Long Island’s beautiful beaches and parks. I just returned home from a walk with my kids around Baxter Pond.

While admiring a mother duck with her ducklings, we were upset when we saw plastic cups, bags and bottles floating in the pond.

It’s enlightening to participate in community cleanups.

The litter on our beaches includes bags, bottles, caps, straws, balloons, flip-flops, razors, and cups. Beyond what we see, it’s heartbreaking to realize that what we find on land is just a small percentage of what is in the ocean.

There are dead zones in the ocean where there is more plastic than plankton, sucking the life out of any marine animal daring to enter.

Most people I meet seem aware of the importance of picking up to both beautify our spaces and protect wildlife from harm. Sadly, the choices we make as consumers don’t reflect that we care.

We are citizens of a throwaway culture. From food wrappers to fancy gift wrapping, plastics have crept into every corner of our modern lives.

Worldwide it is estimated we’ve produced over 9 billion tons of plastic of which less than 9 percent has been recycled.

Single-use plastic bags and expanded polystyrene products are not recyclable.

A flimsy bag made from crude oil is predicted to last a thousand years before it disintegrates.

Deaths of sea turtles, seals, sharks and whales have been directly linked to plastic bags. A sobering example came right in time for the 2018 World Ocean Day when a pilot whale was found struggling in a canal in Thailand.

Veterinarians tried to help the animal. It spit out a few pieces of plastic before it died. The autopsy revealed almost 20 lbs of plastics, including 80 bags.

Scientists have recently discovered that over 90 percent of seabirds have ingested plastic pieces. Plastic trash is found in all corners of the world, from Mount Everest to an uninhabited remote arctic island in Norway.

We have to wrap our minds around the plastic problem and create new habits to counteract the thoughtless consumerism that’s brought us to this devastating point. Awareness is growing and efforts are now aimed at stepping up and out of this mess.

Suffolk recently issued a 5 cent per bag charge fee to curb the use of plastic bags.

In Nassau, the Village of Sea Cliff and the City of Long Beach lead the way with charge fees for plastic carry-out bags.

East Hampton joined Patchogue Village to ban the sale of polystyrene foam products, including “clam shell” take-away containers, plastic foam cups, and packing peanuts.

New York City Mayor de Blasio recently re-introduced a ban on single-use styrofoam in to take effect by January 1st 2019, after three years of pushback from the industry, which successfully sued against his first attempt.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently introduced a bill that bans all plastic single-use carryout bags in New York state, but he’s facing an uphill battle in passing this legislature through the Senate https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/PlasticBagBan.pdf

The legislature moves too slowly for wildlife stuck in plastic traps at this present moment. We can make personal decisions today to change our habits. There is no reason to wait for politicians.

Albert Einstein suggested “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Unlock your imagination; the next time you have a single-use plastic product in your hands, do something differently.

There are many creative ways to refuse to use single-use plastics, such as:

  • when at the ice cream store choose edible cones over plastic foam cups with hard plastic spoons;
  • instead of wrapping perishables in indestructible plastic films, choose biodegradable, compostable alternatives, such as natural wax paper;
  • instead of zip-loc bags use Bee’s wrap;
  • instead of plastic straws use stainless steel, bamboo or compostable straws.
  • Refuse single-use packaging that can’t be recycled in your community.
  • Keep reusable shopping bags in the trunk of your car.
  • Keep your favorite ceramic cup in the car for hot beverages on the go.
  • Use stainless steel, glass and stoneware for food storage.
  • Refill your water bottle.

The consequences of using materials made to last forever as single-use disposables are clear. We have to change our habits.

Let your daily mantra be: Choose to refuse single-use plastics.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Please let me know if you´re interested in helping the ReWild Initiative and PW Monarch Alliance with community cleanups? Participating is a great way to inspire your family to be of service. Pm me at hildur@sol.center and we’ll add you to our list of wonderful volunteers.

  2. Legislator Delia De-Riggi-Whitton and County Exec Laura Curran backed legislation that would charge five cents a piece for single use plastic shopping bags.

    To support this bill call Majority Leader Richard Nicolello to urge him to call this legislation for discussion, his number is 516-571-6209.

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