While eating lunch at work recently, my co-worker pulled out a sandwich wrapped in a colorful sash of woven materials. This wrapper, probably part of a rice sack from a distant place, was washable and reuseable. And – I thought – perfect. Looking into my own lunchbox, plastics abounded. Sure I washed and reused a few plastic bags made from recycled plastic. But was this enough? It turns out, no. The use of plastics leaves many negative effects in our streams, rivers, and seas.
For some time, scientists have known plastics are accumulating in the ocean. A recent study found plastics are floating deeper than previously assumed. Pieces of plastic can extend 20 meters below the sea. One mass near the northwest coast of the United States is about twice the size of Alaska. These particles are ingested by fish, birds, turtles, and other marine wildlife. Often these animals do not survive.
Above Photo: G. Proskurowski, Sea Education Association
Awareness is rising fast and people – myself included – are changing plastic-ey ways. Heal the Bay is working to spread awareness in California, and many creative outreach efforts are happening in Portland. The RiPPLe effect is an annual art gala that showcases creations made of plastics and other trash collected during a river clean-up. This project was started by Jenn Rielly. The International Plastic Quilt Project is promoted by another non-profit to challenge people to live without plastic for one week. Participants collect any plastic encountered and make a quilt piece. The quilt piece becomes part of a traveling exhibit.
All of this talk about plastics and water has certainly made me think. While I might not get around to making the quilt piece, I am going to go sans plastics for a week. Let’s give this a go.