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Where Does Plastic End Up?

By: Petrice M. McKey-Reese


This artifact explores where does plastic end up? The first picture in the slide show
depicts a seagull eating a plastic bag. The second picture is an albatross on Midway Island that
has died due to eating plastic bottle caps and doodads. I have attached a video from
www.care2.com "that captures the lives and deaths of albatrosses so young they are still cloaked
in downy gray feathers. The footage, which is a trailer for an upcoming movie by Chris Jordan
called Midway, was shot on an island 2,000 miles from the nearest continent. That is not far
enough to protect the wild birds from our trash." (Al Lethbridge / 2 Mar 13)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUM58LIU2Lo&feature=player_embedded
Does recycling really help? It can be just as expensive and harmful to the environment in
some cases to recycle. Buying organic does not always mean it is better for the environment so
recycling plastic does not either. In the long term it is better to reduce and reuse so less plastic
has to be made. If you do not recycle the plastic, ensure it goes into a trash bin so it does not end
up in our lakes and oceans which will ultimately end up killing a baby bird. The video below
show how the plastic that we do not dispose of properly ends up in our rivers, lakes and oceans
and how it affects our wildlife that live in and depend on the water for food.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6IP3_aRFtA&feature=player_embedded
According to the United Nations Environmental Programme, global plastic consumption
has gone from 5.5 million tons in the 1950s to 110 million tons in 2009. Where does all this
plastic go when were done with it? Today Americans discard about 33.6 million tons of plastic
each year, but only 6.5 percent of it is recycled and 7.7 percent is combusted in waste-to-energy
facilities, which create electricity or heat from garbage. (Renee Cho / 1.31.2012)
The average American consumes 167 bottles of water each year. There are at least seven
steps involved to make one bottle of water and many natural resources are used. One bottle of
water is transported at least six times during its life cycle. Let's talk about the life cycle of a
plastic bottle. First, the oil is extracted from the earth, then the oil is cleaned at the refinery, at a
plastics factory the oil is transformed into plastic pellets then the bottle pre-forms, The pre-forms
are heated and shaped into bottles, the bottles are transported to the bottling plant where they are
filled with water, the bottles are ready for the consumer so they are transported to the store, the
consumer purchases the bottle of water and brings it home, most of the plastic bottles are thrown
in the trash and end up in landfills. Some are recycled and brought to a factory that turns them
into other items like carpet, fleece and other plastic items. Eventually, those items are disposed of
in the trash and also end up in the landfill. (Ansar Yonis / 27 Jan 14)
What more can we do? Stop buying bottled water is one way to help. Drinking more tap
water will reduce the amount of plastic bottle that are produced of and disposed of that end of in
the landfills. I have attached a video about the life cycle of a water bottle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epHohsA6hiw&feature=playerdetailpage
According to Eco Watch here are Ten Ways To Rise Above Plastic.

Choose to reuse when it comes to shopping bags and bottled water. Cloth bags and
metal or glass reusable bottles are available locally at great prices.

Refuse single-serving packaging, excess packaging, straws and other disposable


plastics. Carry reusable utensils in your purse, backpack or car to use at bbqs, potlucks or
take-out restaurants.

Reduce everyday plastics such as sandwich bags and juice cartons by replacing them
with a reusable lunch bag/box that includes a thermos.

Bring your to-go mug with you to the coffee shop, smoothie shop or restaurants that let
you use them, which is a great way to reduce lids, plastic cups and/or plastic-lined cups.

Go digital! No need for plastic cds, dvds and jewel cases when you can buy your music
and videos online.

Seek out alternatives to the plastic items that you rely on.

Recycle. If you must use plastic, try to choose #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE), which are the
most commonly recycled plastics. Avoid plastic bags and polystyrene foam as both typically
have very low recycling rates.

Volunteer at a beach cleanup. Surfrider Foundation Chapters often hold cleanups


monthly or more frequently.

Support plastic bag bans, polystyrene foam bans and bottle recycling bills.

Spread the word. Talk to your family and friends about why it is important to reduce
plastic in our lives and the nasty impacts of plastic pollution.
References:
http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2012/01/31/what-happens-to-all-that-plastic/
http://plasticbaglaws.org/get-involved/plastic-bag-recycling/
http://ecowatch.com/2014/04/07/22-facts-plastic-pollution-10-things-can-do-about-it/

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