Perhaps you’ve heard, out in the Pacific Ocean somewhere between the US and Japan is a large accumulation of plastic items from all over the world. From Asia as well as North America. Plastic doesn’t disintegrate or decay very fast, and that gives it time to accumulate in one place. A scientist would say its decay half-life, that is, the length of time for half of it to go away, is measured in years, if not centuries. This gives it time to accumulate to huge levels.
I’ve always tried to recycle as much plastic as possible, but some plastic items defy recycling. I’m talking about things like plastic bags and plastic wrapping. Glad Bags and Saran Wrap. I’ve noticed I throw away a large number of those types of plastic every year. Plastic sandwich bags and plastic food wrap are the most common, not to mention plastic garbage bags. (Don’t get me started on plastic garbage bags.) I can recycle plastic bottles, such as milk bottles, and plastic containers and jars, such as an old mayonnaise jar. Occasionally I throw away a used Styrofoam carry-out container, too. But plastic recyclers don’t commonly take plastic bags, so I have to throw them away. I pride myself on not throwing away other important items such as food, but I casually toss plastic stuff in the trash almost every day. Considering how slowly plastic things break down, this is a significant amount of waste that will be around for a while.
Plastic recyclers don’t take plastic bags and wrap because they’ve got, potentially, anyway, food residue on them. Anything going in the recycler should at least be rinsed and relatively clean if not washed thoroughly. I suppose I could clean plastic bags and food wrap and reuse them myself, but that’s a nuisance; I’d have bags and wrap all over the place. They would have to be washed and allowed to dry. Still, something has to be done. We shouldn’t allow plastic to accumulate in our kitchens or in the ocean, so it may be up to each of us to do a little bit to slow down the oncoming plastic tidal wave. (I use the term “tidal wave” because I can’t spell tsunami.)
In any event, the solution to the problem lies with each of us. I’m going to try to throw away less plastic than before, though I don’t know how far I’ll get with it. Call it a new year’s resolution one month early.