As anyone who has participated in neighborhood, stream or beach cleanups can tell you, plastic pollution is everywhere. Styrofoam, plastic bags, microbeads and now microfibers are a growing concern and a hot topic among environmentalists. Thankfully, public awareness is growing and progressive, environmentally-minded legislators, such as Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Sonny Simon and Ohio Senator Michael Skindell have sponsored legislation aimed at reducing plastic pollution.
More than eight million tons of plastic are dumped into the world’s oceans each year, where it kills animals and fouls waterways and beaches. Closer to home, statistics indicate that 80% of the litter along the shorelines of the Great Lakes is plastic. Sadly, even if plastics are placed in landfills, it doesn’t always stay put. All types of plastic trash flows down the rivers and lakes, through the St. Lawrence Seaway, into the Atlantic Ocean and around the world. A takeout container thrown on the street, which sadly they do, can wind up washing up on a faraway tropical island.
The incredible amount of plastics strewn around is disgusting enough, but it was a recent trip to Antigua that really got me thinking about the pervasiveness of plastics in the environment. The resort we stayed encouraged guests to rethink the need to use straws in their beverages. Yes, something as seemingly benign as a straw is a bigger detriment to the environment than most people might suspect. Who would imagine that Americans use an estimated 1.6 (or about 500 million) straws each day—and that is just in America. Fortunately, Going Strawless awareness campaigns are being implemented in places like Antigua, the United Kingdom, California and Colorado, and even in our National Parks.
So go strawless. Or at least choose to reuse by purchasing straws made from plants, bamboo, glass or metal. More important, make your voice heard. Please support environmental legislation and those legislators who are working to protect our environment!
Environmental Science & Technology Journal 9/14/16 (http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acs.est.6b02917)
Blog Author: Janine Rybka, District Administrator