The Great Flood of 2017: Plastic Pollution

The Great Flood of 2017: Plastic Pollution
By CS Sherin
July 22, 2017

“Pollution” by Geraldsimon00 on Pixabay

There is a great flood that threatens all life on the planet. It is a flood that has been building since the 1950’s. It is the flood of plastic pollution, and it is profoundly out of control. This event is illustrated in two charts, as reported by Zoe Schlanger on July 19, 2017 for Quartz (qz.com): “The World’s Plastic Problem, In Two Charts.”

Plastic pollution in the ocean was first seen in the late 1960’s to early 1970’s, but steady production of plastics in the US began during WWII.

The first chart in the article includes both plastic resin and fiber. The growth from the 50’s to now is staggering.

A study published by Science Advances on July 19, 2017 stated that: “As of 2015, approximately 6300 Mt of plastic waste had been generated…If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 Mt of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050.” (Source: Roland GeyerJenna R. JambeckKara Lavender Law. “Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made,” Science Advances, 19 JUL 2017 : Vol. 3, no. 7, E1700782,DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700782. Advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/7/e1700782/tab-pdf.)

The second chart illustrates that in 2015 alone 407 million metric tons of plastics were produced, and 302 million metric tons of plastics were disposed of. The article goes on to explain that only 9% of that 302 million tons thrown out was recycled. And, 12% of the plastic thrown away was burned. Plastic breaks down, but it never totally goes away, nor does it fully break down. Plastic remains as it is, more or less, or breaks down into microscopic pieces that attract toxins, and is toxic.

Tatiana Schlossberg covered the same study on July 19, 2017 for The New York Times (online). That article, “The Immense, Eternal Footprint Humanity Leaves on Earth,” highlights that plastic packaging alone makes up a significant percentage of what is thrown away. The article also looks at the unintended legacy humanity will leave behind in plastics, as well as the importance of a study like this that measures this immense problem in detail.

There is a chapter in Recipe For A Green Life, called “The Problem With Plastics And What To Use Instead.” In that chapter (pages 98-125) the subsections cover the ins and outs of aiming to eliminate disposable plastics, plastic history, plastic pollution facts (including microplastic and microfiber pollution), the details of numbered plastics, biodegradable plastics, miscellaneous plastics and related chemicals, scientific discoveries that give glimmers of hope in dealing with the catastrophic amount of plastics in our environment near and far, plastic bans around the world, and navigating the snags and tricky terrain of becoming more free of plastics in daily life choices. It is a well-rounded resource, and integral piece that supports a holistic approach to sustainable living.

In addition to that resource for you within my book, Recipe For A Green Life, the information on this page gives you an important look at the epidemic we face, highlighted via news reports from this year, so far, as we are a little more than half way through 2017. Also included below, are some resources and ideas for your everyday life in relation to disposable plastics and related issues. The good news is, awareness of the plastic pollution crisis is cresting in the mainstream, even though it is not enough yet. Facts are facts. We must pay attention to this issue and act. So, let’s go forward with our eyes wide open and do everything we can to make amends to our collective health, the environment as a whole, and our future. Please join me and others who recognize the reality we face, and commit to doing all we can each day to change this negative tide of toxic plastics for the present and future generations of life.

A precursor to the following section, I want to include mention of this article: “Why The Ocean Is Key To Climate Protection” by Irene Quail, Deustche Welle, June 9, 2016. This is a foundational perspective. Also, it is important to remember that plastic pollution not only affects Earth’s ocean, but also our lakes, rivers, and other inland waterways. We must work and act to protect all water.

Some of the Big Stories on Plastic Pollution in the News, so far, In 2017

The Great Lint Migration” by Melody Bomgardner, Chemical & Engineering News (Vol. 95 Iss. 2 pp. 16-17), January 9, 2017.

Seafood Eaters Ingest Up To 11,000 Tiny Pieces Of Plastic Each Year, Study Shows” by Sarah Knapton, The Telegraph, January 24, 2017.

Whale Found Dying Off Coast Of Norway With 30 Plastic Bags In Its Stomach” by Helena Horton, The Telegraph, February 3, 2017.

Banned Chemicals Persist In Deep Ocean” by Paul Rincon, BBC News website, February 13, 2017.
Extraordinary Levels of Pollutants Found in 10km Deep Mariana Trench” by Damian Carrington, The Guardian, February 13, 2017.

Plastic ‘Nurdles’ Found Littering UK Beaches,” BBC News, February 17, 2017.

Scientists Discover Surprising Source Of Pollution: Our Closets” by Kate Payne, WFSU News, March 17, 2017.

Trillions of Plastic Bits, Swept Up By Current, Are Littering Arctic Waters” by Tatiana Schlossberg, The New York Times, April 19, 2017.

This Bug Can Eat Plastic. But Can It Clean Up Our Mess?” by Carrie Arnold, National Geographic,  April 24, 2017.

This Idyllic Remote Island Has No Residents But 17 Tons of Plastic Waste” by Elle Hunt, Tech Insider, May 16, 2017.

Plastic In Rivers Major Source Of Ocean Pollution, ” Phys.org, June 8, 2017.

A Million Bottles A Minute: World’s Plastic Binge ‘As Dangerous As Climate Change‘” by Sandra Laville, The Guardian, June 28, 2017.

These Ocean Plastic Collectors Might End Up Collecting More Silicon Valley Money Than Trash” by Alessandra Potenza, The Verge, July 13, 2017.

Plastic Pollution Risks ‘Near Permanent Contamination Of Natural Environment” by Matthew Taylor, The Guardian, July 19, 2017.

The World’s Plastic Problem, In Two Charts” by Zoe Schlanger, Quartz, July 19, 2017.

 

“Garbage” by hhach on Pixabay

 

Yesterday I posted the 10 First Steps to help you begin a more holistic and sustainable lifestyle. Steps one (refusing consumerism), two (aiming for zero waste) and four (aim to eliminate single-use plastics) all, in some way, address single-use disposable plastics and related items. Step five, “Give up harmful products and habits” includes examples of alternatives to several approaches and products, including some plastics. Let’s look at the plastic alternatives from that step more closely:

Cigarette Butts Pollution: Quit smoking. Or, roll your organic tobacco in hemp papers until you do.

Plastic Lighter Pollution:  Instead, use a hemp wick dispenser, a refillable stainless steel lighter, or sustainable wood-sourced matches.

Plastic Drinking Straws Pollution: Invest in stainless steel, glass, paper, or bamboo drinking straws.

Balloon Pollution:  Find reusable and unique decor for celebrations–like ribbon dancers, paper kites, and scrap fabric streamers.

Glow Stick Pollution:  Use the flashlight on your phone, or a recycled paper lantern with a reusable warm-colored LED light inside.

Polystyrene Foam Pollution:  Choose reusable stainless steel or heat-resistant glass containers or sustainable-certified biodegradable recycled paper and cardboard containers instead. There is even mushroom based packaging available that is completely biodegradable.

 More Resources

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Ten Steps To Living A Holistic, Sustainable Green Life Right Now

Ten Steps To Living A Holistic, Sustainable Green Life Right Now
July 19, 2017
by CS Sherin

These 10 steps were originally published in full in Recipe For A Green Life by CS Sherin, Wild Clover Press, 2017. The following is an edited and adapted version from that original source, from and by the author. 

The following is a beginner’s first steps list for a holistic approach to sustainable Green living. It is an introduction to actions, thoughts, and practices that are meant to be adopted and integrated into one’s life at a natural pace and for the long haul. My book, Recipe For A Green Life, can walk you through the pitfalls and snares of such a great and rewarding undertaking, having turned my trials and process into your benefit with many answers, tips, resources, and problem-solving to make the transition with grace and verve. Living a holistic, sustainable Green lifestyle transforms your every day choices and actions, slowly, steadily, and surely, into empowerment, with positive, practical, and productive action. These sustainable practices lead to simplifying, well-being, increased quality of life, and meaning, which ripples outward positively impacting others.

You may be wondering what a holistic approach is for sustainable living. I can explain. I literally wrote a book about it.

Instead of creating and following one or two compartmentalized niches of action and lifestyle; we integrate the many parts and paths within our daily lives into one seamless aim that is both interconnected and conscious. The sustainable approach looks at the big picture and the grassroots personal picture and integrates the two. Each person’s process and version will be unique and appropriate to their life circumstances, resources, and abilities. The holistic approach to sustainable Green living is a perpetual aiming for ethical and kind choices, health and wellness for ourselves and all of life. It is an awareness of interconnected systems and wholeness, not a segment, exclusive branch, or commercialized niche. A holistic approach to sustainable living is the fullness of our lives at grassroots level, that tends and grows what we value most in life. It is a realistic, practical, money-saving, action, awareness and research-based approach that invests in all fronts that say yes to health, life, equity, kindness, sustainability, wellness, as well as our most foundational and crucial resources. All of this maintains commitment to integrity, transparency, and ethics.

Depending on where you live, and what personal and shared resources are available to you, will greatly determine how and how much you are able to do. Yet, every little mindful choice and action you make with sustainable, Green, kind living in mind is contribution, a paying it forward, to a better life now and in the future. It is a YES to health, life, love, and a more sustainable and renewable approach for all.

This approach is inclusive. It starts with each of us, right where we are, with what we have, and what we are capable of, and grows from there. It embraces unique, creative, ethical, and transparent grassroots initiative. It rejects greenwashing, commercialism, and other approaches which lead to neutralizing or the selling out in some way integrity, health, and the aim for holistic wellness and balance for all life. This approach amplifies our own personal power in ways that can inspire and help self, family, and others. We have more positive and long-lasting power via our daily choices and actions than you may imagine! Are you ready? Let’s get started right now!

  1. Refuse to be a consumer. Consumerism means endless waste and misuse of materials and resources. Convenience, waste, single-use items, cheap and fast come at a huge price to our health, ecosystems, resources, and quality of life. Buy less. Avoid buying items that you waste and don’t really need. Make learning about and practicing sustainable living a daily and ongoing goal. Refuse to trash, misuse, and consume life. Put a stop to endless reckless waste.
  2. Aim for zero waste. Aim to be less and less wasteful. Begin by taking two weeks to observe. Observe what you use and throw away each day. Read labels. Notice packaging. Go through drawers, cupboards and cabinets and observe what is there. Notice: are there toxins, are there products and appliances that set you up to waste, and useless packaging? Continue observing what you throw away and what you put in recycling. After a week or two of this practice you will gain insight into many things in your life and around you each day that you take for granted or dismiss as unimportant, when that is far from true. As you move forward, plan how to slowly and surely change what isn’t sustainable. Avoid wasteful and unnecessary packaging. Avoid single-use disposable items. Use items and materials that are healthy in the long-term, and that you can safely reuse, refill, renew, repair, and up-cycle. Trade, donate, and simplify.
  3. Commit to decreasing your daily meat and dairy intake. The amount of meat and dairy being consumed is grossly unsustainable, unethical, and unhealthy for people, animals, resources, and the environment. At the rate we are going now, the United Nations University has estimated that without changes, greenhouse gas emissions will increase by 80%! Multiple extensive and major scientific studies agree that a worldwide move to a plant-based diet could instead reduce emissions by 63% (vegetarian) to 70% (vegan). The American diet takes too much, wastes too much, and shows little to no concern for the dire crises we face that impact future health and survival. Also, the American diet puts unbearable strain on health and subsequently health care systems, as well as environment, animals, and resources. Even the most die-hard meat and dairy fan can recognize the benefit for health and the pocketbook in easing up on meat and dairy intake each day. Ready to get started, and make a life-affirming change? Explore fun, balanced, easy sustainable plant-based recipes. Hint: there are many recipes and guides that set you up for success for this adventure in Recipe For A Green Life.
  4. Aim to eliminate single-use plastics. Aside from emergency and medical situations, we need to move away from single-use plastics ASAP. Disposable plastics are made with non-renewable resources–petroleum and natural gas, mixed with chemicals. Each year, 12 million barrels of oil are used in the US for SINGLE USE DISPOSABLE plastic bags alone (Source: SPREP, Fact Sheet # PF-004). This statistic doesn’t even include ALL single-use disposable plastics. The choice for relentless and widespread single-use plastics is obscenely reckless and a gross and tragic misuse of resources. Not only that, as we speak, plastics are an insidious form of pollution in our waterways and ocean. (Most plastics never make it into recycling programs. And a lot have limited ability to be recycled.) Break the mindless habit. Use stainless steel, heat-resistant glass, organic cotton, hemp, refillable, washable, and reusable containers and items instead.
  5. Give up harmful products and habits. For starters, give up cigarettes with butts, plastic lighters, plastic drinking straws, chewing gum, lead ammunition, balloons, glow sticks, and polystyrene foam. These all have a huge footprint of harm on our health and environment in the form of pollution. There are toxin and waste free alternatives for all of these. What are some of the better alternatives? Quit smoking. Or, roll your organic tobacco in hemp papers. Instead of plastic lighter, use a hemp wick dispenser or a stainless steel lighter. Instead of plastic drinking straws, invest in stainless steel, titanium, silicone, paper, or bamboo drinking straws. Buy lead-free ammunition for your hunting gun. Instead of balloons find reusable and unique decor for celebrations like ribbon dancers, paper kites, and scrap fabric streamers. Instead of glow sticks, use the flashlight on your phone, or a paper lantern  with a reusable warm-colored LED light inside. And finally, there are many alternatives to polystyrene foam, which is often used for packaging, hot beverages, and deli and other carryout containers. There are reusable stainless steel or heat-resistant glass containers or biodegradable recycled paper and cardboard containers that can be used instead.
  6. Buy local, organic, humane, and Fair Trade products. Buying local cuts on cost, emissions, and supports local businesses and local farms. Buying organic eliminates pesticides and GMOs while maintaining a more ethical, natural, and healthy approach to food, resources, and health. Supporting local organic farms and gardens lessens food waste and helps communities to unite and thrive. While organic labeling can be tricky, it is worth learning about in order to make the best choices for you and your family in the long run. When you buy a product, textile, or food from another country, it is best to buy Fair Trade. This certification ensures basic standards and protections for health, human/animal rights, and habitats, as well as workers’ rights, fair pay, and the ability to form unions. Otherwise, too often we unwittingly fund human and animal rights abuses, habitat and species loss, sweatshops, slavery, and serious degradation of our biodiversity and natural resources. Invest in ethical and transparent sourcing, businesses, practices, and products. Divest from what is toxic, unsustainable, harmful and wasteful without conscience. Support communities, health, kindness, and equity.
  7. Conserve, preserve, and protect resources and habitats from pollution, toxins, and other threats. Stop using pesticides. Grow an organic garden in containers or on land. Compost. Support and protect pollinators. Learn about permaculture. Conserve and protect water. Make a stand for the health and future health of water, air, soil, habitats, and communities. Network with others, invest in sustainability in your daily life through your awareness, choices, and actions.
  8. Recycle everything possible. Recycle your hazardous waste responsibly at a local recycling center. All electronic devices, appliances, many kinds of batteries, and CFL light bulbs are some of the potentially dangerous and toxic items–they contain heavy toxic metals, are flammable, can explode and pose a negative threat to health. Make sure you keep hazardous waste out of landfills. Find and contact your local hazardous waste site to find out what they take and when.
  9. Drive less. Transportation in the US is still largely dependent on non-renewable fossil fuels. Besides serious pollution from derailment, exhaust, and toxic batteries and tires, greenhouse gas emissions is another concern. Driving is a significant source of pollution. Even if you have a hybrid car, likely the battery production was brutal on resources and habitats, and so, degrades quality of life for communities. Bike, walk, carpool, and use public transit as much as possible. Get creative, network with others interested in healthier communities, and find solutions for your region, perhaps via improving transportation routes, modes, and choices.
  10. Make your own toxin, waste, and cruelty free Green products like deodorant, toothpaste, laundry detergent, dish detergent, hand sanitizer, and for cleaning. Keep sustainable, ethical sources and demand in mind as you choose ingredients. Research, practice, and commit to ongoing learning. This way, the products you use daily become less costly, both literally and relation to health and the environment. Read Recipe For A Green Life: A Holistic Green Living Handbook And Recipe Book for recipes and tips. This way, we take back out power in our daily lives, and act upon our ethics and compassion in practical, easy and tangible ways that can make a real difference.

Copyright NoticeThese 10 steps were originally published in full in Recipe For A Green Life by CS Sherin, Wild Clover Press, 2017. This article is an edited and adapted excerpt from that original source from and by the author. If you wish to share this article, please do, yet be sure to include the entire article, source, and this copyright notice. You are welcome to share the meme image of the 10 steps within this article separate and freely, as long as you keep it as it is. Thanks!

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