Ocean Plastic, Leek and Potato Soup, and Beeswax on Cotton
Ocean Plastic, Leek and Potato Soup, and Beeswax on Cotton
Why I Care
My son (“Bud”, to me) and his girlfriend (“Sweetie”) live in a paradise on earth, on the windward side of the Hawaiian island of O’ahu. Most every morning, they and my sweet grandpuppy Bear start their day by trekking down to the beach. The water there has beautiful blue jewel tones and there’s always a warm breeze. The waves lapping the shore is a peaceful sight and sound. The sunrises are among the most beautiful on earth and make the rest of the world melt away. Hawaiians and tourists gather at the beach before sunrise to swim, kayak, snorkel, to do yoga. Or to just to sit on the sand and be mindful.
What I Learned
Bud and Sweetie don’t go just to enjoy Mother Nature, though. They go to pick up trash. Other people’s trash and the trash that the ocean has washed in overnight. Some days are worse than others. On good days, they have only large drink cups or buckets along the shore to pick up. Waves and wind pound plastic pellets into “nurdles” or tiny plastic pellets. Nurdles and other small bits of plastic grind into the sand on the beach and mix with pebbles and shells.
On the days after heavy winds they’d need a dump truck to haul away everything that washes ashore. Those are the days that wash in broken shipping containers the size of a hot tub. Mounds and mounds of fishing nets and gear all tangled into a ball. Plastic buckets and crates, bottles, bags, jugs, and broken pieces.
It’s heartbreaking to see the debris left behind from our modern lifestyle of ‘use it once and throw it away.’ Single use plastics are discarded minutes after use, despoiling the beauty. And that’s besides all of the things left by the tourists who played on the beach the day before: Flip flops. Umbrellas. Floats. Boogie boards. Snorkel masks. And plastic bottles, bags and straws.
By the Numbers
Of course, it’s nearly impossible to escape the ubiquitous plastics in our modern life. Plastics have become an essential part of so many things we use every day since their introduction in the early 20th century. It is estimated that 8300 million metric tons have been produced throughout history with more plastic produced in the last decade than ever before. Most plastics are derived from fossil fuels so their production impacts our climate.
Single use plastic bags, straws and bottles are three of the biggest culprits, with about 500 billion bags, 100 billion bottles, and billions and billions of straws used worldwide each year. Plastic bags, bottles and straws are used for an average 15 minutes before being disposed of. Of the 100 billion plastic bottles sold in the U.S. in 2014, 57% were plastic water bottles. We can find plastics in face washes, chewing gum, and clothing. Microplastics leach out of our clothing every time we do laundry, and the waste goes into the drainage systems.
Where it Goes
Some of that discarded plastic waste makes its way into our local waterways and eventually into the oceans. Antiquated city drainage systems overflow and dump into local rivers and streams. The increasingly strong coastal storms wash more and more plastic waste out into the oceans when the waves recede.
Ocean plastic pollution was first recognized by scientists in the 1970s and now there are multiple gigantic patches of plastic accumulation in the oceans. According to the National Geographic Society, ocean currents and wind patterns drive ocean debris into certain locations and toward these locations where the patches form. One of those floating patches in the Pacific Ocean is more than twice the size of Texas and congregates between California and Hawaii. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch – the GPGP – is so large and cohesive that it’s been named. While plastics are generally resistant to degradation by the sun or water, they do break down into smaller and smaller pieces from pounding wave action and being ground together. Generally, the GPGP doesn’t look like a trash pile on land; a lot of it is a body of cloudy water from the plastic microparticles.
The plastic pollution isn’t just at the ocean surface, however, as there is plastic debris on the ocean floor and in the midwater column as well. Fish and sea animals tangle in the debris and mistake it for food. Through these animals’ ingestion, plastics are making their way into the human food chain as well. The problems are so overwhelming that it’s easy to just throw up our hands and think there’s nothing we can do about it.
How We Can Help
So, now that I have you thoroughly depressed, let’s try and look to the positive side. Our own behavior and habits and demands as consumers can have a big impact on the single use plastics in our life. That’s my mission this month: Develop new habits to get these three sources of plastic out of my home and my life. I’m going to make sure that I have fabric tote bags stashed in both our vehicles, that we always take glass or metal water bottles with us, and keep some reusable bamboo straws in my purse. I hope you will join me in trying to make these small changes. The only way to ever make a difference is to start trying, and there’s no time better than the present.
I’ve been thinking a lot on what I could craft to help reduce plastic use in my home as well and I’ve found a great project for us to tackle together. You may or may not have seen these yet, but there is a plastic wrap replacement made out of cotton fabric treated with beeswax for covering bowls or storing foods . There are some companies selling these reusable food wraps, like Bee’s Wrap or Etee, but we can make our own as well! I have a few already but could use several more. They wash easily, last a long time, and I think they keep food fresher than plastic. Next week, I will share with you instructions on how we can make some of these reusable wraps so that box of plastic wrap in your kitchen drawer can be the last you will ever buy.
I’m also paying a lot more attention in the grocery store to choices I can make that reduce the amount of plastic coming into my home. I’m so fortunate to have access to a year-round Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) from which I get a weekly boatload of organic fresh vegetables and fruit throughout the year. And that’s pretty impressive in Michigan, where we have cold weather November through April! I highly encourage you to see if there is a CSA near you and to check it out. But even if you get your food primarily from a grocery store, there are choices we can make there that reduce our plastic intake. Also later this month, I’ll share with you a recipe for a great vegan comfort-food soup that I’ve come up with that requires no ingredients that use plastic packaging.
Later in the month, I’ll also share with you more actions we can take to reduce plastic waste in our lives. Of the many groups that are working to impact ocean plastic pollution, there is one that I’ve been trying to learn more about and support, 4Ocean. I’ll share more information about this great group and more.
Thank you so much for visiting Kreateedoo. I hope you’ll stop in again.
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