How I Broke Up With Plastic
This story is part of a series on ocean plastics.
Clacking away at my laptop on a rainy morning last month, while working on a story about how plastic trash is choking our oceans, I became suddenly aware of the object that I had been chewing on mindlessly: a plastic straw punched through the plastic lid of a plastic cup holding my daily iced coffee.
Through my reporting, I had learned some staggering facts about single-use plastic packaging, things made to be used once and thrown away. Experts say these items are the leading source of trash found in or near bodies of water worldwide. Plastic drinking straws and cups ― like the ones I get at the coffee shop before work ― rank among the top 10 most common types of beach and marine litter.
Versatile, inexpensive and used to make everything from electronics to medical equipment to airplane components, plastics are an essential part of modern life. And for most of us, it’s not feasible to give them up entirely, said environmental engineer Jenna Jambeck, whose research last year concluded that our oceans are being inundated with 19 billion pounds of plastic garbage annually. This barrage is mostly due to inadequate or mismanaged waste disposal systems and littering.
Plastics don’t biodegrade and could exist in the environment for centuries or more. While the industries that make plastic products should work toward mitigating this crisis, people should take action too. Cutting back on the use of single-use plastic products is the number one step individuals can take, several experts told me.
As I chewed on my plastic straw, my conscience nagging at me, I made a decision. Inspired by the fast-food documentary “Super Size Me,” in which filmmaker Morgan Spurlock ate only McDonald’s food for 30 […]