Plastic, Plastic and More Plastic!

There have been many news stories lately about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (even Oprah talked about it.  See The Huffington Post Blog.)

The patch is also called the Pacific Gyre.  The first I heard about it was in the book “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman.  He talks about how the U.S. Navy corroborated an early 90’s estimate of over 3 million tons of plastic swirling around in the Pacific Gyre. That was over 10 years ago. All this plastic has appeared in barely more than 50 years. (An oceanic gyre is a large, slowly swirling vortex caused by wind and ocean currents.)  By the way, it’s not like you see piles and piles of large plastic items (although there are some) floating in the gyre.  Much of the plastic has broken up into small pieces which float both on and just below the surface.

Photo from samples taken by Captain Charles Moore aboard the Algalita

Photo from samples taken by Captain Charles Moore aboard the Algalita

These small particulates of plastic are unfortunately mistaken for food by fish, mammals and sea birds.

Photo From Algalita Marine Research Foundation

Photo From Algalita Marine Research Foundation

“By 2005, the size of the gyrating Pacific dump was estimated to be as much 10 million square miles–nearly the size of Africa. And it’s not the only one: the planet has six other major tropical oceanic gyres all of them swirling with ugly debris.” (Excerpt from chapter 9 of Weisman’s book.)

Further studies continue, like the upcoming Summer 2009 plastic debris research project by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, and others.  But the bottom line for each of us as consumers is to reduce our use of plastics where possible.

When given the choice at the store or on-line, take into consideration the packaging when comparing two similar products.  By buying the product with less packing (usually plastic is involved), we indirectly support a more conscious effort on the part of the supplier to move towards sustainablility.

Make consumer's like voting

Make consumer's like voting

The other day for example, I stopped buying my favorite bandage brand and switched to another brand because the manufacture of my old brand now includes a hard plastic container with each new box of bandages, rather than the old paper style box.  Plastic, Plastic and More Plastic!

More on sustainability in a future post.

Chad M. Wall


4 responses to “Plastic, Plastic and More Plastic!

  1. It it amazing to me how much of a difference it makes to simply be conscious. I’ve noticed so much over-packaging since I started paying attention. You’re absolutely right that consumers hold the key to change. We just to have to be aware, and spend our money accordingly.

  2. What is up with the new packaging? I could see if that was a container meant for refills but in each package? That just seems wrong.

    congrats on getting your blog started – looks good!

  3. ecotrashsolutions

    judy and peggi,
    Some companies are improving their sustainability stance (more on a future sustainability post), but many are not. Before I posted, I checked the bandage supplier’s website and while they show both the plastic box and the paper box, if you attempt to purchase the product, only the plastic box version is available.

    Interestingly, it appears the change in packaging is considered to be a POSITIVE thing with respect to customer response. In fact, the manufacture went to a marketing group to help come up with the change and that group proudly uses this example to promote what they can do for companies.

    We may have to do more than just not buy products from companies with poor sustainability practices. We might have to send an email or two, or ten.

  4. Yeah, it definitely sounds like consumers need to be proactive in letting companies know “I won’t be buying your product now” if they are not environmentally conscious. I really need to start paying attention! And, very importantly, have my daughter pay attention too!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s