To the Editor:
Plastic is a miraculous material. It’s strong, durable, and useful, but the benefits are a double-edged sword. Plastic is so strong and durable that it can take centuries to break down, and even when it does break down, it just becomes increasingly smaller pieces of plastic.
All of our discarded plastic clogs landfills or releases toxins when incinerated. Some of the plastic finds its way into the ocean, creating garbage patches the size of Texas, and being consumed by sea animals. When animals consume plastic, it takes up space in their stomachs, leading to starvation. Once the animal dies and decomposes, the plastic is left behind to be eaten by another animal. When the plastic breaks down into small enough pieces, it’s consumed by plankton. It doesn’t take a huge leap to see that if the animal at the base of the food chain is eating plastic, so are we.
What can we do to fix this problem? Recycling is a good option, but more important is reducing the amount we use in the first place. Most plastics degrade during the recycling process and therefore can only be successfully recycled once. Recycling only delays the trip to the landfill. Fifty percent of the plastic we use is single-use, so we use it once — often just for a few minutes — and then we throw it away. If we want to leave a world behind for our children that’s at least as nice as the one we’ve enjoyed, it’s imperative that we tackle the problem of plastic pollution.
It’s easy to carry a reusable water bottle, reusable grocery bags, and carry your own cup to your favorite coffee shop. Reducing single-use plastics takes a little more thought, but it will be worth it the next time you take the garbage out and realize that the bag feels much lighter than usual.
11 Antler Pine Road, Sandy Hook January 31, 2018