Paper or Plastic?

Convenient? Yes. Horrible for the environment? Yes.

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Just within the last couple of months, Americans have seen reports of large companies and individual states developing plans to get rid of plastic drinking straws.  Perhaps you are wondering if ridding ourselves of these tiny pieces of plastic will make much difference in our world today.  The answer probably lies somewhere between “yes and no” at this point.  

Plastic Pollution Coalition CEO Dianna Cohen recently stated that, “They’ve (straws) been designed to be used for a very short amount of time, and then tossed away.  We look at straws as one of the gateway issues to help people start thinking about the global plastic pollution problem”.

Basically, our world does have a significant amount of plastic that goes to waste and ends up contaminating our land and water sources.  By banning the use and production of plastic straws, citizens and large corporations begin a transition of using less, and hopefully less, plastic substances.

Generally, plastic items can take approximately 1000 years to decompose.  This number can vary depending on the type of plastic, but 1000 years is the general rule-of-thumb.  According to a scientific report in 2017, only about 9% of the world’s plastic is actually recycled and reusable.  That leaves an amazingly high amount of plastic that is left to decompose.  Many believe that we are all in a plastic threat, if we don’t start taking more precautions and change the habits that we have formed over the last several decades.

     The first plastic was created in 1907.  It was developed as an inexpensive, flexible alternative to glass, wood, and many other materials.  It has quickly risen to fame due to its cheapness, pliability, and ease of production.  People around the world use it in almost every arena: in their homes, offices, sports equipment, medical devices, grocery stores, and so on.  Plastic has proved to be a very useful substance.

The problem falls when we are finished with our plastic product and we toss it in to the trash.  Since it decomposes at such an achingly slow rate, plastic items have overtaken our landfills, and have creeped into our oceans, lakes, and other similar resources.

So, today, you may wonder why have we started working on this environmental problem with the small object of the drinking straw?  It all began in 2015 when a video was posted on the Internet of a sea turtle with a straw sticking through its nose.  This sea turtle became a symbol of how we all need to do a better job of taking care of the world around us.

With this small change that Americans will soon have to partake in, perhaps our plastic awareness will become more robust and we can adapt more easily to future changes.    

Pete