Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Plastic is Killing Us
There is an old saying I repeat when a problem is so big it is overwhelming. It goes: "How do you eat an elephant?" Answer is "One bite at a time."
So how do we deal with the 500 billion to a trillion plastic bags that are used each year by consumers? We know they are bad for the environment. We know they end up as litter in streams and oceans and landfills where they do not biodegrade and the toxic chemicals leak into groundwater. About 100,000 whales, seals, turtles and other marine animals are killed by plastic bags each year, according to Planet Ark, an international environmental group.
Before the 1980s we didn't have these plastic bags but now we can't do without them. In South Africa, the bags are so prominent in the countryside that they are called the "national flower". Some Countries like Australia, Bangladesh, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, Taiwan and India have banned or discourage the use of plastic bags. But with a trillion new bags in use each year, we have to do more.
We each need to do our part. If you don't have reusable cloth shopping bags, get them today. I keep mine in the back of my car because it is so easy to forget them.
Stop the checker from grabbing a plastic bag to hold that carton of ice cream. They do it automatically and it is not necessary. Even fruit and vegies do not need plastic at the grocery store. Just place it in the basket and load it into your reusable bag at the check counter.
You can reuse those handy zip lock bags. They can be used over an over and rinse out nicely. Less than 2% of plastic bags get reused. If you have a plastic bag, reuse it as much as you can.
Will these small changes make a difference? I have no idea but the elephant is pretty big and one bite at a time sounds reasonable to me.
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 6:52 AM