What is the Problem?
It’s not just about discarded single-use plastic clinging to chain link fences, littering our beaches and parking lots, clogging our gutters and drains, hanging from our trees, and spoiling the green spaces along our roads and highways…it’s about what happens to the plastic as the elements break it down into smaller and smaller pieces until it all becomes many trillions of microplastic particles.
These particles travel through the environment via waterways and air and find their way into our soil, plants, animals, and yes, even ourselves. While the research into the health effects of having microplastics in our bodies is in its infancy, early indications are reason for concern.
So, what do we do? We must all work together to eliminate the ubiquitous use of plastic in our lives. Single-use food and drink packaging and bottles contribute enormously to the plastics problem, so that’s a good place to start! Always choose glass or metal over plastic, reusable over single-use when you can. Keep your own set of metal or bamboo utensils and refuse plastic cutlery when you are ordering take-out. Shop in stores where they offer a “bulk foods” section where you can put your purchases in paper bags and then store in glass jars when you get home. Refuse plastic bags and opt for reusable (best) or paper (better).
IPEN (International Pollutants Elimination Network) is a global network of public interest organizations improving chemical policies and raising public awareness to ensure that hazardous substances are no longer produced, used, or disposed of in ways that harm human health and environment. They have published a number of studies and produced several excellent reports on plastics and microplastics that can be found here.
Learn more about the plastic problem and its impact on human health:
Beyond Plastics is a nationwide project based at Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont, that pairs the wisdom and experience of environmental policy experts with the energy and creativity of college students to build a vibrant and effective anti-plastics movement. Watch this video, and visit their website to learn more.
Plastics and Microplastics: A Threat to the Environment and Health
Talking Trash - from the Changing Markets Foundation
Microplastics in Drinking Water - from the World Health Organization
The Real Truth About the U.S. Plastic Recycling Rate: 2021 U.S. Facts and Figures