Where do plastic bottle caps go? A lot of them end up in the ocean. 75% of ocean debris is made of plastic. And it doesn’t just float around. A lot of it ends up killing marine life, like this young albatross.
We talked with marine biology professor Richard Thompson yesterday, and he said:
It’s not about banning plastics. It’s about thinking about the ways that we deal with plastics at the end of their lifetime to make sure that we capture the resource.
On Midway Island, where this photo was taken, 1/3 of albatross chicks die from ingesting plastic. This image comes from photographer Chris Jordan, who says:
For me kneeling over their carcasses is like looking into a macabre mirror. These birds reflect back an appallingly emblematic result of the collective trance of our consumerism and runaway industrial growth.
Jordan directed a film about Midway Island and you can explore more of his pictures here.
A few years ago I went on a plastic diet — after witnessing windward beaches in wild places littered with colorful bits of our plastic culture. I tried very hard to dramatically reduce the amount of plastic I consumed to see how hard it was to cut back. Initially I tried to do without ANY plastic, but found it impossible to consume anything other than food from farmer’s markets and the cost and selection of a natural product compared to a plastic one was prohibitive. A modest reduction is easy for anyone. Here are five things that cost nothing and make a difference.
1. Take your own cloth bags to the grocery store. Don’t put your head of lettuce, few apples or oranges into a plastic bag. Only bag for the checker if the items such as peas or Brussel sprouts which are too small to handle or would fall through the cart.
2. Don’t buy plastic bags. Instead reuse what you naturally get when you use your processed foods such as cereals, breads and small fruits and vegetables. Save glass jelly or other jars to store single servings of leftovers. They don’t absorb the smell or taste of the food and can be reused until they break. Also reduce trash bags. Compost what you can. Recycle what you can. Give away what you can. The small amount that then ends up as garbage can be put in the stray bag you inevitably end up with occasionally. If your community requires bagging of garbage (most do) fill the puppies up before you push them to the curb.
3. Consider metal, wood, natural fibers or glass over plastic. This may cost a few cents (or dollars) more. I bite the bullet more often than not, then work an extra bit if I must. I have never noticed toiling overtime to pay for the difference.
4. Notice what is plastic. So many things, including shoes and clothing is mostly plastic. Look for options with less plastic and more natural content. If you buy the plastic loaded goods, say athletic shoes, when you are done with them, don’t throw them away. Donate them. Many running stores participate in shoe donation programs. What may seem “done” to you may be a prize for someone who simply needs a sole under their feet.
5. Think of disposing of plastic as a serious responsibility. If you take responsibility for the very long-life of your waste it will give you pause when you reach for the cool but highly disposable items like the dental floss with a built in plastic handle and pick. Avoid one time use plastic as much as you can.
As you can see from the sad photo. A tossed bottle cap does make a difference, a sad one.