Plastic Pollution May Become a US Legacy, and Not a Good One.

Looking back to May 16,  2019, I posted a short article titled:  “The Question:  What’s The Problem With Plastic? … “According to the Environmental Protection Agency, over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are consumed in the U.S. each year. According to The Wall Street Journal, the  U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. (Estimated cost to retailers is $4 billion).” [See also: CCGKC Digest, The Question: What’s The Problem With Plastic?].

Two years ago that article dealt with plastic bags and the enormous impact they have on the environment.  I do not think anyone can deny that one look at the plastic bags generated within each household is problematic as a disposal issue. Twenty years ago there were gadgets being produced to hold the plastic bags for reuse — those plastic gadgets, at least in my household of 4, filled in less than a week. 

Since then, I have been taking a deeper look at this issue and the problem has not gotten better, nor is it going away until politicians, big business lobbyist and climate change deniers develop a conscience for the future generations. Drastic steps are necessary for every household to cut the ties that bind us to plastic. To be more specific, we need to influence manufactures through our purchasing power to incorporate sustainable practices in the manufacturing of consumer goods. As long as we continue to buy anything PLASTIC, plastic will continue to rule over the choices we have in the market place. 

In this moment, to be honest, I am preaching to the choir.  Those taking the time to read this OpEd know that plastic is a huge issue not just in the US but globally. In the past, our recycled plastics have been sold to other countries, such as China, where it was then manufactured into other plastic goods.  Many people continue to recycle without knowing that our “recycled” mess is now winding up in landfills, where it will sit for decades to hundreds of years before it will begin to break down, or worse — in the ocean, where aquatic wildlife down to the fish we eat are being contaminated with a kill rate we have never seen. I ask the decision makers, the politicians the manufacturers, what about the future? — our grand children’s children. They are much more our legacy than the money, family business/corporation, heirlooms or other such possessions we leave behind.  Plastic should not be part of that.

The United States is the largest producer and consumer when it comes to plastic waste. It includes anything made of plastic from drink bottles (btw- contain microplastic that enter our digestive system) right down to the clothing we wear and the fabrics that decorate our homes. [See also: CCGKC Digest, The Question: Is Fast Fashion a Climate Problem?, 5/27/2019].   

To expound on this issue, I’d like to add another layer in the lack of social consciousness to this plastic mess, US mainstream media, all the news outlets that will not cover this issue as a dire mainstream issue that puts the responsibility where it belongs — on all of us.  As a researcher, by career for over 20 years, I look for well cited articles with scientific backup. My sources tend to be publications that the general public never sees or sources in Europe where environmental issues are covered with a serious respect for sustainability.  Where are the US mainstream sources?  Too few and often a shadow of the truth. US mainstream media tends to turn a blind eye to any environmental issue that is beyond its borders, yet it is mostly US garbage laden with plastics from the size of water bottles down to the micro plastics–particles that come from washing out of plastic based fabrics that is infecting the entire globe. The US should be a leader in the battle to fight global warming.

This is the beginning of a series of articles regarding the way that plastics impact the environment from the refuse composed of the plastic we can see, down to the unseen particles of plastic pollution that has permeated the very foods we eat, to its presence in human organs.  Remember, plastic is a carbon based product and the biggest cause of global warming. It comes from crude oil, the very substance in gasoline, pesticides, herbicides, medicines and more, and the producers know the harm it does to humans, but for them it is profits for their boards over the well being of  humanity. [See also, CCGKC Digest, The Climate Crisis Is A Crime Story, 7/4/2021].