I get asked this question a lot. So much that I’ve decided to tell you all about why going plastic free is just so important to me and why it should be important to you.
First let’s talk a little bit about what plastic is, what it is made from and how it interacts with its surroundings. The thing that most people don’t know about plastic is that it is made from oil. That’s right the stuff you put in your car also is in your Tupperware (kind of makes you not want to eat out of it anymore doesn’t it?). Okay so it’s not identical. Both go through a process to turn them into their final products, but it all comes from crude oil and crude oil is a non-renewable resource. Once it’s gone, it’s gone; as far as we can tell anyway. 3.6% of the world’s oil, or 3.2 million barrels a day of oil, is used in plastic and chemical production. A barrel of oil is defined as exactly 42 US liquid gallons, so that makes 134.4 million gallons a day that’s turned into plastic. Sadly oil and the products made from it are very toxic. Most plastics are not as solid as they look. They can and do soak up what they come in contact with and they leech the chemicals they are made with. it acts as a toxic-sponge to anything it comes in contact with, even things like soap. Food grade plastics are better, but when you heat them up it can still react the same as thinner plastics. Plastic degrades, but it is not biodegrade-able. This means that plastic fragments and fails to decompose entirely. Which means all the plastic that has ever been made will always exist and there is nothing anyone can do about it. If you think about it, that’s a lot of plastic and it’s growing every day. So what does this mean for us?
1. It’s Destroying Our Environment
This is a big one for me. I know many people who think this one isn’t that important or that it’s not real and I get why. It’s hard sometimes, especially for conservative Christian folks to determine the difference between the bad science and stretching of the truth of the politics that are about pushing a certain agenda and the hard cold facts that are really threatening our world. It’s hard to go to the beach and think that there is a real problem because it looks clean, right? Maybe on the public beaches that have crews that clean them, but the beaches that aren’t cleaned, in foreign countries? They can look like this: See, what you see at your beach isn’t the whole truth. Turns out the corporations of this world send much of their trash and leftovers to third world countries and it ends up in their landfills. It makes sense when you think about it. I mean we’ve all seen the pictures of the sad little Indian kids sifting through piles of trash. It just never occurred to me that they were sifting through OUR trash. The beaches isn’t even the really half the story. It’s the giant amounts of trash that are floating out in the middle of the oceans. There are these crazy trash piles in the middle of the oceans called garbage patches and they sit in what is called the gyres. There are seven gyres in the world’s oceans and they are ringlike systems of ocean currents rotating clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere and they collect trash these days. This video explains it better than I ever could:
It’s not just in the oceans, either. When it breaks down it is in the soil and there, it leeches chemicals, poisons the soil, and keeps things from growing as well or at all in extreme cases. What it does to animals isn’t pretty either. These are just a couple of pictures that show just how dangerous plastic can be for the wildlife. It kills hundreds of thousands of animals yearly, big and small. And it gets worse. There are these things called nurdles. Nurdles are pre-production plastic that get made and shipped all over the world to get melted and formed into whatever people need. Unfortunately they’re about the size of Nerds candy and about as easy to spill and lose all over the place. They also have a nasty habit of soaking up chemicals and the releasing them into whatever animal mistakes them for plankton and fish eggs. If you watched the video you know that there is more plastic in some parts of the ocean than there is plankton. If you didn’t know it, plankton is the bottom of the food chain and, while the top apex predator at the top may be scary, it’s the bottom of any food chain that is the real powerhouse. It usually feeds everything else in its ecosystem and for the ocean that powerhouse is plankton. So you can imagine just how damaging something that is poison going around masquerading as food can be. The really scary thing is that plankton is more than just a food source. It’s the source of 60-80% of the world’s oxygen. If the things that eat the plankton die form eating plastic, the plankton won’t get eaten and they will eat all their food source (algae) to the point that it can’t replenish then the plankton will eventually starve and if that happens, we will start losing most of the oxygen of the planet.
I love hiking and kayaking and spending time in the beautiful world and the wilderness that it holds. I want to share that with everyone around me and the future generation. I want to be able to take my nephew hiking in a pristine wilderness, not a trash dump. I’d really love to be able to take him kayaking in an ocean where he can see sea lions and dolphins and snorkeling in a bay full of fish, rays and other amazing animals, just like I’ve had the joy of doing. Someday I’d like to breathe air. These are all things that slowly we won’t be able to do if we don’t stop producing plastic, especially plastic that is made just to be thrown away.
Stay tuned for part two!