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Drowning in Plastic Waste

The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre

I guess it was 2010 when I first read about the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre and began to understand the issue of plastic waste.  The author, Alan Weisman, describes in his book entitled The World Without Us, an area of the Pacific Ocean located between Hawaii and California. Here the surrounding ocean currents have created a place of stillness where things tend to get stuck.  He recounts the story of Captain Charles Moore who set out from California toward the western Pacific on his catamaran one day in 1997.  It didn’t take long before the captain and his crew encountered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It took a week to navigate through the 1,000 mile long mass of trash. Moore calculated the gyre contained 3 million tons of plastic waste…in 1997!!

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is filled with empty plastic bottles, six-pack rings, plastic bottle caps, plastic grocery bags, and “nurdles”…billions and billions of nurdles.  Nurdles are tiny plastic pellets that find their way into all aspects of our ecosystems.  Birds, turtles, fish and other aquatic wildlife mistake them for food.  And billions of them wash up on our shores.  They are the building blocks utilized by plastics manufacturers to create the thousands of plastic products we use every day. One way or another they end up in places like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. And other places all around the world.  Because plastic never goes “away”. 

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Just Recycle!

We like to think we can “recycle” our way out of the plastic problem we have created within only 50 years. In reality, only about 9% of stuff we send for recycling actually goes through the process according to Zoë Schlanger . In 2018, China stopped accepting plastic waste from the around the world.  But other countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam were more receptive and have now found themselves buried in plastic with no infrastructure to handle the issue.  The sorting of plastic for recycling is a complex process that requires the separation of dozens of various types of resins many of which are simply not recyclable.

What Can We Do?

So what can we do?  We can continue to use and recycle plastics in the hopes that each piece gets its one chance to be re-used to create new plastic. Or we can pledge to reduce our use.  We can choose products contained in sustainable packaging.  We can demand companies find ways to package their products with our environment in mind.  At the Kulturology Soap Company we have committed this year to do our part both in business and in our personal lives.  This will be no easy feat.  Just a quick survey of the products in my pantry and the dozens of products packaged in plastic makes me wonder if it’s even possible to eliminate this stuff!!  Quite frankly, I have been hung up on the issue of peanut butter for two days!!  I love peanut butter!!  Am I going to have to make my own in order to eliminate the plastic container every brand of peanut butter is sold in????

You too can join along in the fun!!  Take the pledge to reduce plastic waste from bath and shower products at www.reduce-plastic-waste.com.  We will keep you updated on our progress.  We are also looking forward to a new documentary about the global plastic issue which you can learn about at https://www.storyofplastic.org/    Lets all do our part to prevent ourselves from drowning in plastic!!