Tag Archive | pollution

Farewell to Plastic Straws

Are you one of those who loves clean sand and ocean waters; who loves and cares about fish, birds, and the interconnected web of life (of which we are an integral part); and who appreciates the centuries required to create healthy ecosystems — not to mention the billions of years of preparation? If so, you must be deeply concerned about the harm plastic and plastic straws cause our precious Earth. 

You probably took special action on Earth Day to care for our common home. Whether or not your action concerned plastic straws, I hope that what follows will be enlightening and motivating.

The theme of the 2018 Earth Day was to focus on ending plastic pollution by 2020. Researchers estimate that 90 percent of seabirds and many whales, dolphins, and other fish have ingested plastics, including straws. According to the World Economic Forum, without action the amount of plastics in oceans will exceed the amount of fish, pound for pound, by 2050. Many forms of plastic pollution need attention, but ending the use of plastic straws is both easy and important.

Every day in the U.S. alone about 500,000,000 plastic straws are used once and thrown “away” — but there is no “away”! Where do they go? They wind up in landfills where the toxins can seep into water supplies; they add to the estimated annual 8.5 million metric tons of plastic debris in oceans; they are on beaches and in the ocean, causing serious harm to fish and birds and ecosystems and spoiling recreation time for sun- and water-lovers. They also expose us to unhealthy toxic chemicals.

Educated by films, news reports and movements, more and more individuals, businesses and even countries have pledged to stop using plastic straws. Efforts to curb plastic use increased after British naturalist Sir David Attenborough presented his 2017 BBC series Blue Planet II. The series, which called particular attention to the issue of ocean plastics, even prompted Queen Elizabeth II to ban plastic straws and bottles on all royal properties, including public cafes.

The UK government’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove explains why his government will end the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton swabs in England: “Single-use plastics are a scourge on our seas and lethal to our precious environment and wildlife so it is vital we act now.” 

McDonald’s in the UK will start a trial in May to use paper straws instead of the normal plastic ones. It will also try out a scheme where straws are kept behind the counter, and only given out to customers on request. McDonald’s chief executive Paul Pomroy said: “Customers have told us that they don’t want to be given a straw and that they want to have to ask for one, so we’re acting on that.

This proves that contacting restaurants can be effective. Restaurants in Edgewater, Chicago, have pledged not to use plastic straws. You might know of other places that have taken action. The movement grows as people learn about it and take action!

In February 2018, Scotland announced intentions to ban plastic straws by the end of 2019. Toronto and other cities have also taken action. As part of an initiative of the Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, to eliminate plastic straws from stadiums, Chicago’s White Sox baseball team will no longer serve plastic straws with drinks. Fans can request a biodegradable straw instead.

I encourage readers to learn all they can about plastic straw pollution (see sites below) so that they will be ready to educate others and to encourage businesses — in person or by mail — not to offer them. Those who need straws can ask for biodegradable ones. It’s easy to say “No plastic straw, please” when ordering drinks. 

Some sites with information about plastic straws: 


2.37 min. trailer for strawsfilm.com.

‘A Scourge on Our Seas’: UK Government Takes Aim at Single-Use Plastics

Plastics Don’t Disappear, But They Do End Up In Seabirds …

Last Straw crusade gets Toronto bars, restaurants to ditch plastic straws for …

See also https://ecospiritualityresources.com/2017/06/14/eight-reasons-pl…ic-water-bottles/



About Water

(Statistics vary; I did my best to use generally accepted numbers.)

First let’s rethink the value of water — the gift that dates to the stars and required billions of years to accumulate on our planet. All life (that we know about) started and survived because of it. Presumably, all future humans and species will depend on it. Water plays a key role in religious rituals such as baptisms. Water is essential for growing crops, providing beauty and renewal; it cools us …. Sister Water merits our respect and care!

About Plastic Water Bottles

In 1973,  a DuPont engineer patented polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, the first to be used for bottling water. Its light weight and resistance to breaking seemed advantageous. But would people buy a free product?  Indeed they have, and while it’s sometimes necessary, the rest seems to be nothing but clever advertising and dependence on convenience. What follows applies to all plastic bottles, but focuses on water because there are easy alternatives.

Even Pope Francis has asked us to reduce use of both plastic and water. From Laudato Si’:

There is a nobility to care for creation through little daily actions, and it is wonderful how education can bring about real changes in lifestyle. Education in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption  ….. (par. 211)

Here are eight reasons to rethink the use of plastic water bottles:

1. You testify that drinking water is a human right, not a for-profit commodity —

Water is absolutely essential in maintaining human life, and nothing can substitute for it. On 28 July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights. ( Resolution 64/292)

2. You save the water used to make plastic bottles — 

For a true water footprint, consider all freshwater used in production: water used for drilling the petroleum for the plastic, water used in production, water used making packaging. It takes a minimum of 3 liters of water to produce 1 liter of bottled water, but amounts could be up to six or seven times greater when everything is considered.

3. You save the water put into the bottles — 

Activists throughout the world strongly object to having their water bottled and sold back to them. The damage to their loved locales cannot be repaired. Companies take scarce water and sacred water. It’s a matter of justice! There are 50 billion water bottles consumed every year, about 30 billion of them in the U.S. Do the math.

4. You save the energy used to make and transport plastic bottles — 

Producing, packaging and transporting a liter of bottled water requires between 1,100 and 2,000 times more energy on average than treating and delivering the same amount of tap water, according to the Pacific Institute. Scientists of the Pacific Institute estimate that just producing the plastic bottles for bottled-water consumption worldwide uses 50 million barrels of oil annually—enough to supply total U.S. oil demand for 2.5 days. We all know how fossil fuels damage our climate.

If you imagine that every bottle of water you drink is about three-quarters water and one-quarter oil, you’ll have a pretty accurate picture of how much energy it takes to put that bottle of water in your hand.

5. You prevent pollution from bottles which, even if recycled, take years to disintegrate — 

There is no “away” to throw things to. About 13 percent of empty bottles are recycled, where they are turned into products like fleece clothing, carpeting, decking, playground equipment and new containers and bottles. (Three cheers for the companies that do this!)

The bottles not properly recycled end in landfills or in the ocean. Those fragments absorb toxins that pollute our waterways, contaminate our soil, and sicken animals. Plastic trash also absorbs organic pollutants like BPA and PCBs. They may take centuries to decompose while sitting in landfills, amounting to endless billions of little environmentally poisonous time bombs.

Plastic bottles and plastic bags that break down into smaller fragments over time are the most prevalent form of pollution found on our beaches and in our oceans. Every square mile of the ocean has over 46,000 pieces of floating plastic in it! Millions of pieces of plastic debris float in five large subtropical gyres in the world’s oceans. But even more plastic might be on the oceans’ floor, doing damage we can’t yet study.

“Besides providing food and raw materials, the oceans provide various essential environmental benefits such as air purification, a significant role in the global carbon cycle, climate regulation, waste management, the maintenance of food chains and habitats that are critical to life on earth.” (from Cardinal Turkson’s recent statement to the United Nations)

6. You protect fish, birds, and humans from effects of plastic pollution —

Birds and their young die from eating and being strangled by plastic debris in oceans and on land strewn with plastic pollution. These ingested chemicals can then affect humans when we eat contaminated fish. Not only are we severely harming the land, air and water around us, but the rest of the world has to pay the price for our thoughtless over-consumption. Our children and generations to come will be dealing with the problems we caused.

7. You avoid the toxins that is in, and can leach from, plastic bottles — 

BBC reports that a 2018 study of several brands of plastic water bottles found that 93% of the water was contaminated with micro plastics. It’s not a question of best brands; the plastics are everywhere. Another study, by CertiChem, found that more than 95 percent of the 450 plastic items tested proved positive for estrogen after undergoing sunlight, dishwashing, and microwaving. Even BPA-free products tested positive for released chemicals having estrogenic activity.

8. You save lots of money!

And so

Where safe drinking water is not available due to scarcity or pollution, plastic water bottles are needed. Otherwise, to protect the future of our beloved (and only) planet, our water and food supply, our climate, our oceans — use a thermos with tap water. Many varieties of faucet filters and pitcher filters exist. Group events can supply pitchers of water and glasses — or drinking stations with compostable cups. Some cities, universities, stores (e.g., Selfridges) and tourist areas (e.g., the Grand Canyon) have banned the sale of bottled water; some supplied drinking stations. Alert those who are unaware. To quote Pope Francis again: There is a nobility to care for creation through little daily actions.