First comes knowledge. When I read that a friend, Laurie Riley, was not buying any plastic goods or anything wrapped in plastic, I was galvanized. People are changing from despair into action! Several long conversations with Laurie have taught me what an individual, and better yet, a group, can do. Here goes, with many thanks to Laurie.
China is no longer accepting our plastic waste for recycling. Huge amounts are piling up at recycling centers, and much of it is going into landfills or just sitting with no place to go. These centers will not be able to accept the mounds we are creating, and side effects will be toxic to the environment. Remember the saying – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle? We must Reduce and Reuse starting now. Recycling has become a very difficult predicament.
Pollution of the oceans is an enormous problem. Over 5 trillion pieces of plastic currently litter the ocean,, accumulating in in 5 huge ‘gyres” throughout every ocean. The biggest one is between Hawaii and California; the large and tiny pieces of plastic therein are killing fish, ocean mammals, birds and even plankton.
Enter Boyon Slat, a young Dutch inventor, entrepreneur and Aerospace Engineering student dropout who founded the company - The Ocean Cleanup. He is 24. He has developed and built a floating device that has sailed through the Golden Gate heading for the gyre. Slat estimates that they will deploy 60 of these free-floating barriers in the ocean by 2020. They hope to remove 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years. The free-floating barriers are made to withstand harsh weather conditions and constant wear and tear. After two decades they hope to have collected 90% of the trash in the patch. The Ocean Cleanup has raised $35 million so far in crowd funding, with generous donations from Marc Benioff of Salesforce and Peter Thiel of Paypal.
Obviously it is important that we humans throughout the world reduce the millions of tons of plastic that we discard yearly. Scouring the beaches for waste is a good approach. Changing our buying habits is also necessary. Take note of the plastic bags you now have, and reuse them over and over. Don’t take new ones; use your own cloth bag to go shopping. Try to avoid packaged foods, which almost always come in plastic. Make cloth baggies to use when you buy in bulk. Never accept a plastic straw for your drinks; you can find reusable ones in many places, including at the store cited below. Compost your food waste – it’s easy to do and you will be rewarded with great soil for your garden. Jennie Pfeiffer is a ‘master composter’ so you can give her a call for suggestions.