It’s not a secret that the world has a massive garbage problem. Our landfills are overflowing and there is so much plastic in the ocean that it’s actually getting concentrated in the bodies of the fish (some people) eat. The world’s population is growing, and the plastic problem is getting worse and worse. It blocks waterways, sea life gets caught in it and end up dying. Those are just a few examples of how detrimental plastic is to our planet and it’s wildlife.
Several years ago, I went on a Panama Canal cruise with my dad. One of the excursions we picked was a jungle river tour in Costa Rica. We travelled along a bumpy dirt “road” in a coach bus. As I stared out the window, my heart broke. Beautiful beaches, that should be populated with children and families, frolicking in the sand and enjoying the sunshine. That was not the case. The entire beach, as we travelled, was littered with garbage. Not a single person, just piles of plastics and rubbish. I was told that this is because the people can’t afford to have their garbage picked up and disposed of, so they throw it into the ocean and onto the beaches.
My heart broke even further when we were on the small boat in the river. There was some really amazing wildlife, exotic birds, etc. It was an experience of a lifetime. What broke my heart was seeing a crocodile on the shore, laying right beside an empty milk jug.
Plastics are a killer. It kills plant life, ocean life and causes danger to many different animals. Plastic is made from toxic compounds known to cause illnesses and it is not biodegradable. It does not break down. It is overused, less expensive and causes harm to the land and life when it is burned.
One of the biggest problems is fishing nets. A lot of people around the world consume fish for their daily meals. The nets are made from plastics and actually account for 46% of the plastic in the ocean! Also having the nets in the water for long periods of time, releases pollutants into the water and the fish themselves.
Plastics leak pollutants into the ground and water. This is killing so much wildlife. It is also affecting us as humans. We are using so much plastic, such as water bottles, plastic shopping bags, food containers, etc.
So the question is: what do we do about it?
You’ll find a lot of restaurants now use cardboard or paper straws. You can help with this by not using plastic straws. There’s actually metal and glass straws that you can buy, wash after each use and just carry it with you when you go into a restaurant.
When you go grocery shopping, skip using the plastic bags to bundle and carry your groceries. Use paper bags (which are biodegradable) or cloth shopping bags, which can be reused over and over. Plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to degrade.
Instead of buying boxes of items like cereal, pasta, etc. buy them in bulk and use a bag or container that you care re use.
Do you chew gum? There are many reasons not to chew gum, but it is made from synthetic rubber, which is, you guessed it, plastic.
Another idea? Don’t use plastic cutlery. It is plastic. I have been guilty of using plastic cutlery in the past, but after learning and realizing how detrimental it is to, well, EVERYTHING, I have switched to regular stainless steel cutlery.
There are a lot of ways we can reduce the use of plastic. It just takes some effort. But if you could look and see how it is affecting innocent wildlife and land, it just might give you some incentive to change.
Not only is plastic hurting wildlife, but it is hurting humans as well. By burning it, it is releasing toxins into the air we breathe. Maybe that is enough to make the change from plastics to biodegradable items?
Whatever your motivation is, we need to make a change. It’s that simple. We need to cut out the use of plastics in our lives and be aware that it’s hurting fish, the land and other wildlife – which is then affecting humans.
I hope places like Costa Rica can find a way to dispose of their garbage in a more sensible way. I know it’s difficult with third world countries, but, if we can start the change right here in Canada, maybe one day that milk jug won’t be sitting beside the crocodile.
Author: Alex Singleton