I love plastic. I use it all the time. If you’re reading this, you probably do, too.
My favorite kind? Disposable contact lenses. They come in plastic cases, individually wrapped for extra safety, with a foil seal that makes the nicest sound when it peels off. Contacts provide excellent peripheral vision and don’t slide down my nose. They are great for skiing and for seeing all the way across the room in yoga class.
When I’m done with a pair of contacts, into the trash they go, where they shrivel into brittle bits the texture of dried seaweed. Once I dropped a contact lens in a parking lot. By the time I found it, it had been discovered by an ant, who was carrying it off. Who knew? Ants love contact lenses too.
I feel bad about this. That’s a lot of plastic. Glasses are an acceptable substitute most of the time. For awhile I collected the lens cases and foil covers. They might be good for an art project! The cases have a handy hole, which could be threaded to make a necklace. I have a drawerful, in case anyone wants a lens case necklace.
I think of myself as an eco-crusader. I compost, and I’ve brought my own bags to the grocery store for decades. I live in an eco town with a goal to be sustainable sometime in the not too distant future. In 2013 our city imposed a 5 cent charge for paper bags and banned opaque plastic bags with handles.* You know the ones. They flap in trees and hang half-ingested out of turtle’s mouths in nature videos. This was a momentous event. People wrote letters to the editor and protested over-reaching government. One letter-writer vowed to boycott stores here and shop in the neighboring town, which doesn’t charge 5 cents for bags. Now, five years later, most people tote their own bags and nobody makes a fuss. Success!
In spite of my and my town’s heroic efforts, plastic trash has continued to proliferate. Pieces are showing up in the air and water, everywhere.
It’s in bottled water. A recent study tested 250 containers of bottle water from 11 leading brands purchased from several countries. Brands included
- Nestle Pure Life
- San Pellegrino
Ninety-three percent of all the bottled water contained at least 10 pieces of plastic larger than the size of a human hair, and an average of 314 smaller pieces that were probably plastic. The water bottling companies were surprised. They comply with all safety standards! (There are no safety standards for plastic in bottled water.)
It’s in tap water. Tap water was tested all over the world. 83% was contaminated with plastic.
The highest rate of contamination was in the United States. 94% of US tap water samples contained plastic fibers, including samples taken from the Congressional buildings, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters, and Trump Tower.
It’s in the oceans. A survey of beaches in the remote Australian Territory of the Cocos Keeling Islands in the Indian Ocean, home to about 600 people, found tons of plastic from Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and China. Cleanup efforts don’t even put a dent in the mess.
Similar messes are on beaches all over the world.
Plastic bits are in honey.
It’s in the air. A lot of plastic is floating around. Ten tonnes** of it sprinkled from the atmosphere onto Paris in 2015.
Are we doomed?
Visit again next week. I’ll be here in defensive stance over my stash of disposable contact lenses, but also with better news.
*Note: The town ban on plastic bags exempts clear, plastic produce bags. Rolls of these are stocked at handy intervals in produce and bulk food departments. I have a supply of on hand to make extra certain that the carrots in the vegetable drawer don’t touch the cabbage.
**A tonne = 1,000 kg, which is a little more than a ton. This study found plastic particles showering on Paris from the atmosphere at a rate of 280 particles/m2/day. I don’t know what that means, but the Guardian article linked above pencilled it out at ten tonnes a year.
Featured image: seaside dump in the Philippines. All the organic material decomposes quickly, leaving lots and lots of plastic. Photo credit: Orb Media
For more interpretations of this week’s WordPress Photo prompt: Prolific