The United States ranks behind Europe (30 percent) and China (25 percent) in recycling; recycling in the U.S. has remained at nine percent since 2012.
This much plastic enters our oceans every second!
Each year over 100,000 marine animals and one million birds die from ingesting and choking on plastic. Plastics leach harmful chemicals such as DDT into our soil and groundwater. Additionally, plastic products emit millions of tons of greenhouse gases during their production phase, accelerating climate change and polluting our air. Microplastics are accumulating in our soil and water. In spite of years of the mantra “Refuse – Reduce – Reuse – Recycle”, plastics are still a significant problem. China is now refusing to be the dumping ground for our plastic refuse. What will we do about it?
Earth Day is Sunday, April 22, 2018; the Earth Day organization is addressing the plastics problem with its End Plastic Pollution Campaign. A group of Upper Valley friends are educating ourselves as to what it would take to reduce plastic pollution and are committed to not purchase single-use plastic for at least one week. (April 16-22) We’ve given ourselves some lead-time to do research, scout for new options, and share what we learn via this forum.
Sunday’s NYT Magazine is devoted to Climate Change, with aerial photographs of damage done by fires, flood, drought, melting glaciers, etc., wreaking havoc globally. We had a chance to respond to the crisis, but did too little too late. It is a fascinating read and extremely well-written . . . and it is poignant to have the National Geographic “ads” running throughout the online piece, “Planet or Plastic? Choose the Planet”, a reminder that plastic is a fossil fuel-based product that has proliferated, even as we knew what the burning of fossil fuels was doing to our atmosphere. Read the issue
“We know there’s a lot of folks in the community who have been really looking forward to the implementation of this ordinance and are probably keeping an eye on things out there, so we expect that we’ll hear if there are folks who are still using plastic bags,” Elwell said. “And we’re almost a week in, and we have not heard of any instances of that.”
Takeout meals have become a way of life for busy people, and Dartmouth students are no exception. “Students like to eat outside, or sometimes in their rooms, so they buy meals to go from dining halls,” says Madison Sabol ’18. Nothing wrong with dining in dorms or al fresco, she says, but it troubles her to see so much wasted plastic. Sure, it’s recyclable, but she would rather see people use containers that can be washed and filled again.
It took her two years, but Sabol has come up with a way to help solve the problem.
Evian mineral waters has partnered with Loop Industries to create an innovative plastic resin that may offer a solution to plastic waste. They have discovered a catalyst that breaks down PET plastic with zero heat and zero pressure and can be remolded into 100% recycled plastic. Will it be toxin-free? Stand up to heat and cold? Is this really a viable solution to plastic pollution? Read More
Since the “No Plastic Pollution Challenge” this spring, I have focused on reducing all kinds of food containers in my life, not just plastic containers. If one is aiming for Zero Waste, here are a few local resources that are very helpful:
At most co-ops one can bring one’s own containers and buy bulk coffee, peanut butter, olive oil, tamari, hummus mix, maple syrup, honey, a variety of flours, grains, beans, rice sticks, nuts, dried fruit, fig bars, granolas, herbs and spices . . . oooh, and chocolate covered almonds! Individual bagels, scones, rolls, and muffins can be put in one’s own reused bags. The Upper Valley Co-op has several varieties of pasta – they also carry bulk tofu. The Co-ops are a good source of unwrapped produce. Strafford Creamery and McNamara’s milk is available in returnable bottles (gotta find a use for those bottle caps!)
Farmers Markets are a great source of unwrapped fruits and veggies!
Our own gardens are another source of zero waste foods, and the natural packaging (pea pods, cabbage outer leaves, winter squash peels) go back to the earth.
Sunrise Farm in WRJ offers organic spinach in bulk for much of the winter. They carry unwrapped King Arthur breads with brown paper bags available – one can keep filling that same bag or bring one’s own bag for reuse. They carry eggs in paper cartons and reuse those containers when returned. Same for maple syrup – they reuse the returned glass bottles. Strafford Creamery organic milk is available in returnable bottles. Their CSA shares are unwrapped, so if one brings one’s own reused bags, there is no need for new plastic bags.
Dairy Twirl, Ice Cream Fore-U and other purveyors of ice cream offer ice cream in edible cone containers!
Some remaining challenges for me: Cheese, chips, mayo, pickles, catsup, crackers, tortillas, tonic water, yogurt, sriracha – yes, we can make these ourselves . . . but wouldnt it be nice to find less labor-intensive solutions?
What have you found helpful?