Will We Finally Get Serious About “Saying No to Plastic” in 2014?

 Plastic is a bigger danger than global warming, or at least it is in the immediate sense, considering it is snuffing out the lowest common denominator in the food chain, says Neil Seldman, a waste recycling expert and president of the Institute for Local Self Reliance, an organization with a long track record of promoting sustainable communities.

Will 2014 be the year we finally get serious about, “Saying NO to Plastics”?

Forget the hokum about global warming. Plastic pollution can be seen everywhere. This problem is here now not some place in the distant future.

 The vast amount of plastic trash that enters the oceans is a real problem, a problem that grows ever omnipresent on a hourly basis.

Plastic-Dinner

 Plastic pollution is destroying the world’s ocean ecosystems. The real problem with all the plastic entering the oceans is the fact that it never degrades. It photodegrades into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic particles.

 Billions upon billions of smaller and smaller plastic pieces have now become part of the food chain finally absorbed within zooplankton.

 The oceans are constantly in motion.  Areas called gyres pull in waste from one part of the world and bring to other side of the world. As the plastic photodegrades into barely visible pieces, plankton have plastic debris in their bodies. Zoo-plankton are at the core of the marine food chain.

 This situation is so dire that we have places in the oceans where plastic debris outnumbers plankton.

 Unfortunately, that is not the worst of it. When birds, fish, and other sea creatures and  mammals ingest plastic debris which they mistake plastic bottle caps and bits and pieces for food’ the consequences often lead to a long slow death.

 When these creatures consume plastic debris they suffer with blockages of digestive tract followed by satiation, starvation and general debilitating and finally death.

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Plastics are forever

This is one of the best slide presentations on plastics and the impact they have on our environment you are likely to see. Intelligent and well thought out AND put together by two “green teens” with Plastics Are Forever Youth summit.

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The City of Los Angeles is saying NO to plastic bags

PLASTIC WORLD 3

The Los Angeles City Council recently gave approval to an ordinance that will ban single use plastic bags. The ban will be effect beginning in January of 2014 for large retailers. Smaller businesses will be expected to comply beginning in June of 2014.

The bag ban makes Los Angeles the largest city in the country to ban the ubiquitous plastic bag. This is great news for activists worldwide. In addition to saving the environment the ban is projected to save Los Angeles $2 million a year in clean up costs of  plastic litter.

In an effort to help low-income families, Los Angeles is planning  to give out 1 million reusable bags in low-income areas.

San Francisco, Laguna Beach, and Santa Monica already have plastic bag bans in place.

Mark Murray, Executive Director of Californians Against Waste, said in a statement, “By 2014, more than one-third of Californians — 13 million people — will live in communities that no longer have to deal with the scourge and cost of single use plastic grocery bags,” 

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Scientists Recommend Classifying Certain Plastic Waste As Toxic Trash

PLASTIC WORLD 3

An international group of scientists think it is time to consider categorizing some plastic waste as toxic according to a recent LA Times article. Considering the damage to the environment and the health hazards posed by plastic debris and plastic pollution, many believe this is about time.

The throwaway mentality of all things plastic including single-use plastic bags and bottles has burgeoned into an ecological disaster of monstrous proportions in the last 30 years. The tide of plastic debris that has spread throughout the world’s oceans and across every continent poses health hazards to wildlife, marine life and the world’s populace.

It isn’t just the plague of plastic choking the seas as far as the Artic, or the enormous costs of cleaning up our coastlines reaching $500 million annually on the west coast alone. It is having to deal with the unintended consequences of mindlessly tossing vast quantities into the environment without recycling.

Scientists, researchers and marine biologists have found:

  1. Mutant fish with toxins stored in their fats thought to be caused by two General Electric manufacturing plants along the Hudson River that produced PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) from 1947 to 1976.
  2. One third of the fish caught in the English Channel have plastic contamination.Researchers estimate that fish living at intermediate depths in the North Pacific swallow as much as 24,000 tons of plastic debris a year.
  3. Science Daily found BPA, or Bisphenol A,(used as a hardener in polycarbonate plastics and as the lining in food and beverage containers) has been linked to childhood obesity, along with adverse effects on the heart and kidneys of adolescents.
  4. The National Academy of Sciences just published a study conducted by Washington State University and recently reported on Fox News . The study found compelling evidence that Bisphenol A may negatively impact women’s reproductive systems, cause chromosome damage, birth defects and miscarriages.

Plastics do not biodegrade; they photodegrade, breaking down into smaller particles and microscopic bits in the oceans. These plastic bits and their chemical compounds find their way into the food chain as they are ingested by over 180 known marine species.

Degrading plastics leach toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A into the seas. Smaller fish and crustaceans mistake the plastic debris for food are then eaten by larger and larger species. Estimates are there are six times as much photodegraded plastic is in the oceans than is plankton!

Scientists are now calling for a similar approach to fighting plastic debris and pollution as has been used in the past to fight fluorocarbons and refrigerants worldwide. In particular, they want to classify PVC, polystyrene, polyurethane and polycarbonate as the most hazardous/toxic plastics.

The U.S. could take lessons from many countries when it comes to managing plastic trash, especially Japan where 77% of its plastic waste was recycled in 2010.

It should also be noted that Canada, the European Union, and China have banned BPA in some uses. The World Health Organization calls Bisphenol A a particularly dangerous chemical also linking it to cancer and birth defects.

A complete report on the damage done to the environment, entitled Plastic Debris in the World’s Oceans, has been put together by Greenpeace. The 44 page report details the scale of contamination along with workable solutions.

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Poll: Is There a Plastic Bag Ban Coming to a City Near You?

Cities across the country are resorting to bans as a way to reduce the impact and harmful effects of single-use plastic bag. Los Angeles joins San Francisco, Toronto, Westport, Connecticut and the State of Hawaii, all with single-use bans in place.

In May 2012, Los Angeles became the largest city in the nation to approve the banning of single-use plastic bags at supermarket checkout lines. The ban will be phased in over the next 16 months. Shoppers will need to bring reusable bags or purchase paper bags for 10 cents each.

Cities that have instituted these bans have seen a dramatic decrease in the damage single-use plastic bags cause our environment. How do you feel?


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HOW BIG IS YOUR PLASTIC FOOTPRINT?

The world’s oceans are harboring a dirty secret: trash …  lots of it … and we are responsible for it.


 

If you are of a certain age, you most likely will remember that famous line in the movie Mrs. Robinson, “one word Benjamin . . . plastics!”

We took it to heart, because since the 60’s our use of plastics has gone exponentially through the roof.  This is true world wide.  It wouldn’t  be so worrisome if were not for the fact that most of the people on the planet use plastic (in all its forms) in an indiscriminate manner.

It doesn’t matter what corner of the world we are talking about, we all do … more so in the U.S. than other part of the world.

 

Watching a cable program a few years ago changed my outlook about plastic trash in all its forms.  I will never forget the following point.

Every piece of plastic that has ever been manufactured will continue to exist in our landfills and oceans for hundreds to thousands of years to come. Every piece! We use plastic bags, made of a material that has been manufactured to last into infinity, for a minuscule amount of time and then toss them away.

Our throw away society  … “Once ‘n Done” … has created a massive ecological nightmare that has to be faced. We are using our oceans like toilet bowls.

Our thoughtless use and disposal of plastic is helping us kill every form of life.  Fish, sharks, whales, dolphins, porpoise, pelicans, seagulls, etc.; the reefs that support so many forms of life . . . all are negatively impacted by our  thoughtlessness.

If  the oceans are to survive it begins with YOU! Remember it’s not just a plastic bag.

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Why Is There Carnauba Wax in My Gummi Bears?

Imagine my surprise, when by happenstance I checked the ingredients on the back of the bag of one of my favorite gummi candies.

Let’s see … corn syrup, sucrose, gelatin, apple juice (that’s good, right?), natural and artificial flavor, carnauba wax.

Hey, wait a minute, what’s that doing there? Isn’t carnauba wax for the outside of my car?

Know what really makes me so unhappy?  It’s not as if I’m not aware that one should always read the ingredients of anything that we decide to ingest.  I do know that, but really, is nothing sacred?

Guess what?  I now know carnauba wax is put in a variety of foods in addition to be used on my floors.  As this writer from FitSugar notes:

I didn’t know this, but carnauba wax is often called the “queen of waxes.” It’s a hard substance, so it’s used to make durable coatings for floors and cars. It’s also used in polishes, varnishes, and beauty products like mascara, deodorant, and lipstick. In foods, it’s used as a coating or anti-caking agent, and can be found in frosting, candies (such as Altoids and Tic Tacs), gum, gravies, and sauces.

All of this leads me to another imponderable. Why is my chewing gum individually packaged in plastic?

For years we got along fine with our Chiclets packaged in a paper product with cellophane to show the gum product. 

Now, most gum is hermetically sealed… in plastic! The gum will last 15 minutes and the plastic that will last many hundreds of years longer than the gum. 

Isn’t this just a bit excessive?  Really, the operative word is silly. This is a silly, nonsensical use of plastic.




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Chris Jordan: Awareness Through Art

If you haven’t viewed the art of Chris Jordan take some time,  and do yourself a favor.  His ability translate social and environmental concerns into visual art we can all understand is immense.

He has published several books including “Intolerable Beauty – Portraits of American Mass Consumption”, “In Katrina’s Wake – Portraits of Loss from an Unnatural Disaster”,  “Running the Numbers – An American Self Portrait”, and “Running the Numbers II – Portraits of Global Mass Culture”.

Click the link below from Daily Art Fix and Enjoy!

Chris Jordan: Awareness Through Art

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TARGET & CVS SAYING GOODBY TO SINGLE USE PLASTIC BAGS

TARGET

Last week Target, the fifth-largest U.S. retailer in 2008 and CVS announced plans designed to reduce the number of single use plastic bags their customers carry out of their 7,000 stores every year.

Target  plans to give customers a 5-cent discount for every reusable bag they use to pack their purchases at all 1,700 Target stores nationwide.

CVS’ plan is to give customers  who choose to participate cash bonuses for not using plastic bags is more cumbersome. CVS

Customers must ante up 99 cents to purchase a green tag that will be affixed to their own reusable bags when they shop.

When used in conjunction with their CVS cards (four times) customers will receive an additional $1 cash bonus they buy something but don’t request plastic bags.

Green activists,  working to reduce and eliminate single use plastic bags were naturally buoyed by the announcement.

While this is a small step forward, it is none the less, it is worth noting that Target Australia completely banned the use of single use plastic bags in last year in 2008! Here. Green activists are watching to see how soon other retailers follow suit.

In an article  USA TODAY noted

[...] the two programs could keep billions of plastic bags out of the environment and nudge other big retailers to take similar steps, says Allen Herskowitz, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

According to Allen Herskowitz, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, both programs could keep billions of plastic bags out of the environment. “Plastic bags are the most ubiquitous form of waste on the planet,” Herskowitz says. “They are among the most deadly forms of marine debris, lethal to threatened species of marine mammals throughout the world.”

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Smart Plastic Products

Occasionally I am asked if I am against all uses of plastic or if I think all plastic should be banned.  Of course not, the answer is no.

There are real and legitimate uses of plastic.  The problem is that unless plastics are reused and/or recycled they last forever.  As has been pointed out here on more than occasion, every piece of plastic that has ever been produced and hasn’t been recycled,  still exists!  Unless that plastic milk  jug you brought home is disposed of properly, it will likely last longer than the pyramids in Egypt!

Let’s use plastic materials to replace wood products in homes, for decks, fences, to build furniture, to manufacture flooring; there is an endless list of methods and material uses of the substance.  Just don’t use plastic for once ‘n done “single use” plastic bags, for toss away water bottles, clam shells to take donuts home that can easily put in a paper bag or box.

That having been said, I recently I came across a product that is clever in concept, cost effective, and has a legitimate use.  It’s called Bagster in a Bag made by Waste Management Services.

I came across the product when we were faced with all the flooding in Georgia and I thought this is a product with immediate value.

If you have ever had to rent a big dumpster you already know what a pain it is and how costly it can be.   The fact is, there are some jobs that are too small for a big dumpster and too big for your already existing trash containers. Bagster addresses both of these concerns and can be purchased at your local home improvement store for $29.95.  You don’t have to wait for a scheduled delivery or pickup and you can load up to 3,300 pounds of  your household junk, construction debris, or yard waste. The Bagster is said to have the strength of a steel dumpster at a fraction of the rental cost.

There is a fee to pick up the Bagster and you can fill multiple Bagsters and have them picked up at the same time. The Bagster is made out of plastic woven product similar to tarps.  There are filling do’s and don’ts … you can’t put your old refrigerator or toxic materials inside for collection, but if you have a small to medium size job that you want to tackle today, this is a plastic product you may want to consider.

WMS has a wonderful website full of information worth your review … check it out.  This company does more than talk about being green.

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