In the above image, plastic toothbrushes are lined up on Kahuku Beach. This is an act of activism aimed at raising awareness about our astronomical use of plastic in our society today, it’s part of the Ocean Defenders Campaign where the Greenpeace ship, Esperanza MV sails to the Pacific Ocean. It’s often referred to as the North Pacific Garbage Patch, and the campaign is in place in order to document the threat that plastic actually poses to the environment and the sea life.
Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind
In our Westernized society, plastic often falls into the “out of sight, out of mind” category. Sure, we consume plastic from the time we wake up in the morning (to brush our teeth) to the time we turn our lamps (plastic switches) and our T.V.’s off to go to sleep at night – but what about all of the plastic that eventually is thrown into the garbage or recycled? Seeing as we don’t really see this plastic waste in front of us, it is actually pretty easy to just forget about it or straight up not even think about it or where it ends up and just keep on consuming.
For the past 2 months I have been traveling in Mexico and Peru, and while many of the cities in these countries are fairly clean, if you venture off out-of-town and along all the highways what you’ll find is an astronomical amount of plastic waste, specifically plastic bags and plastic water bottles. There are literally millions, scattered all over our precious mother Earth. A friend said, “Wow that is so disgusting, don’t people care about their environment, how can they feel that is acceptable?” But what I realized is that it’s actually no worse than the way that more “advanced” countries are consuming plastic, the only difference here is that you can see it. In a way, that is actually better, so that you have a constant reminder of what you are contributing to every time you decide to use a plastic bag or bottle.
In our more “advanced” societies, the cities have garbage cans everywhere and garbage men and big dumpsters to put all of our trash in and then it gets shipped off so conveniently to the nearest dump or landfill, never to be seen again. How is this really any better? It is still polluting our environment, in a huge way, this plastic DOES NOT break down, well not for at least 500 years, long after it has done it’s damage to our precious environment. It is true that every piece of plastic ever created still exists today. That means that 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic -and counting, still exists somewhere on our planet today, consider that for a second.
What About Recycling?
Every day more and more plastic is being produced, used and thrown away. Yes, there is recycling, sometimes, but many countries don’t have sufficient recycling facilities, so the majority of plastic either isn’t or can’t be recycled. How about that? The fact of the matter is that many of us justify our actions because, well, we recycle. So, doesn’t that nullify the issue? Not really… if we want to really make a difference we only have one option, that is to simply STOP USING SO MUCH GODDAMN PLASTIC!
We have to get real here and begin to take responsibility for our actions, we KNOW that we can’t keep consuming in this way, yet over and over again we continue to do so. Sure, the big corporations are at fault here as well, for choosing to use plastic materials for their products, but as we have seen on a small-scale, that if we as the consumers stop buying products that contain plastic, the corporations will have to start using alternative, environmentally friendly options, but this starts with US. McDonald’s and Starbucks have already begun such and initiative by providing compostable materials, or charging a fee for plastic cups and lids. This is a start and a step in the right direction, we have also seen entire cities take initiative, like Strawless In Seattle -for example, the entire city banned the use of plastic straws for one month, not only to stop the waste, but to show that something like a straw is fairly unnecessary and people don’t really miss it once it’s gone.
Change Starts With You
It is easy to brush these types of things off because you may think, ‘how could I really even make a difference?’ Well, because everything you do will have an impact on the lives of those around you. You simply turning down a straw, bringing reusable grocery bags to the store and a reusable coffee cup to your favorite cafe might inspire others to do the same. You don’t really know just how much of an impact you can have on the lives of others. Plus, if everybody thought, ‘I alone can’t make a difference, so why bother?’ Nothing would ever change! It is up to each one of us to BE THE CHANGE WE WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD. If we don’t like something it is up to us to change it. Everyone should ask themselves, what can I do to lessen my own impact on the environment and our planet?
Just because something is difficult or inconvenient does not meant that it isn’t worth it, if Lauren Singer can go 5 years without making any trash, certainly we can all at least drastically cut back the amount of waste we are producing. We have to take responsibility for are actions and do our part to create the type of world we want to live in, you have to ask yourself do you want to be a part of the solution or a part of the problem? Every choice you make is either one, so choose wisely.