Edited 4/25/2011: Here’s an update on the plastic that is floating in the Pacific Ocean.
So there is a lot of plastic in the ocean, but the Pacific garbage patch is NOT nearly the size of Texas: http://bit.ly/gFj39K
Plastic is everywhere – in packaging and in all kinds of products.
The amount of plastic industrialized societies use is amazing. For one illustration of this, check out Chris Jordan’s art (below):
Once we, ah, contribute this plastic to the oceans, it stays there, unless we harvest it for other uses. There is currently a patch of plastic debris the size of Texas circulating in the Pacific Ocean. I find this disturbing. So does Pete Friedrich, a close relative of mine, who created a comic book about the adventures of these pieces of plastic.
Because plastic is everywhere, it becomes invisible to people. Hence the title of this post.
Plastic became more visible to me the day I realized how much of our household garbage – and recyclables – consisted of food packaging. Take-out containers were the most obvious problem, but there were plenty of other packages – styrofoam mushroom containers, for example – that are not very useful and are often non-recyclable.
When I realized this, I went through the kitchen and thought about ways to stop using extra plastic containers – as well as cans and bottles. The main problems were:
- Buying salad dressing, sauces and dips rather than making them at home. Sauces and dressings are easy to make at home and aren’t usually available in bulk, even at health food stores. Making sauces at home also means that one can choose the ingredients. It’s a win-win situation. Making sauces can also save money – up to $5 or more for the expensive kinds of peanut sauce.
- Using canned food. The process of making metal cans – and plastic-lined cans – probably contributes significantly to global warming, especially if the metal is manufactured overseas and shipped to North America. In contrast, buying fruit and vegetables fresh or frozen eliminates a lot of the packaging.
- Buying bottled shampoo, soap, detergent and household cleaners. Some of these can be made at home using vinegar and other ingredients one can buy in bulk. Many health food stores also give customers discounts for reusing shampoo and soap bottles.
- Buying any item in a box that one can buy in bulk (or make at home and store). These items can include granola, honey, soy sauce, nut butters, rice, baking mixes, pasta, nuts, beans, couscous, dried fruit, and even chocolate chips.
While I feel good about making these changes, I can’t take a big chunk out of that picture of Mt. Fuji on my own. So I hope some of you will give this a try and think about ways you can cut back on your own use of plastic.