Make Earth Day the first of less-plastic days

Beyond the curb



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Plastic is a problem. In a study entitled The New Plastics Economy — Rethinking the future of plastics, the World Economic Forum reports that “while delivering many benefits, the current plastics economy also has important drawbacks that are becoming more apparent by the day.” Among the drawbacks, we have:

• Plastic production is increasing — it has grown more than 20 times during the past 50 years — from 15 million tonnes (metric tons) in 1964 to 311 million tonnes in 2014, and it is expected to double again during the next 20 years.

• More than 90 percent of plastics produced are derived from virgin fossil feedstocks, which have a significant carbon impact on the environment. 

• Only 14 percent of plastic packaging is collected for recycling; the recycling rate for plastics in general is even lower. 

• Most packaging plastics produced are for a one-time use.

• At least 8 million tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean — which is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute.

• In a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain 1 tonne of plastic for every 3 tonnes of fish by 2025. By 2050, there will be more plastics than fish (by weight).

More plastic than fish! And how much plastic will be a meal for the fish we later have on our own dinner plates?

If you were not concerned about plastics, especially single-use plastics, this may catch your attention. 

Plastic is a problem not only for us, but for wildlife as well.

During one of Vincent Sicca’s walks in Viera, he spotted a Great Egret with a plastic bag wrapped around its head. He tried to remove the bag from the bird’s head to no avail. The bird flew away still wearing the bag.

Plastic is a problem, but what can we do about it?

As a matter of fact, we can do a lot. We can say no to plastic. At the grocery store, bring your own reusable bag and look for products packaged in more sustainable ways; at restaurants, skip the straw when ordering water and perhaps use your own container for the to-go leftovers; and at home, look to purchase non-plastic products, buy in bulk to avoid a multitude of plastic containers, use reusable water bottles instead of plastic bottles and recycle what is collected at the curb. 

And that’s not all.

Participate in your local government to pass ordinances that will help control this plastic situation. According to the Miami Herald, the city of Coral Gables just had the initial approval for an ordinance banning plastic bags and it will be “the first municipality in Florida to ban plastic bag use.” Coral Gables is working toward building a more sustainable community. Recently, the city won a battle to ban polystyrene (commonly known as styrofoam) after a pushback from the Florida Retail Federation. 

In Brevard, we are taking the first step to better protect our natural sites, our waters and our wildlife from polystyrene. A group of local organizations, including Recycle Brevard/3Rs and Beyond, League of Women Voters of the Space Coast, Anglers for Conservation, Surfrider Foundation Sebastian Inlet Chapter, and Turtle Coast Sierra Club, are supporting a recommendation to eliminate the use of polystyrene containers on all public property as a way to limit its use in the county. The online petition created to support that recommendation had more than 500 signatures a week before it was heard. Soon, we should know the outcome of this initiative.

Plastic is a problem and it took a Great Egret with a plastic bag wrapped around its head to spring Viera residents into action. After seeing the picture posted on a Facebook group, Grace Torres organized a neighborhood cleanup. A group of residents took their Saturday morning to clean up the area which seemed to have the most litter. 

Dylan, a 7-year-old Viera resident, asked his family to go out and help after he saw the picture of the bird. He was enthusiastic about the job at hand. “I want to help clean up. I can do this!” he said.

Yes, Dylan, you can make a difference. And you did!

On this Earth Day, think about how you can cut back on plastic in your life. Like Dylan and all Viera residents who participated in the cleanup, you will see that you have the power to make a difference, too. SL

Email Marcia Booth at Marcia@3RsAndBeyond.org.

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