Why You Should Care About Using Plastic

By Rylie Young

The Charter Opinions – 1/7/19

I’ll get straight to the point, I believe that we should all try to avoid plastic. Soon I’ll explain why, but first let’s look at the history of plastic.

According to the Science History Institute, the first plastic was invented in 1869 by John Wesley Hyatt, who was searching for a substitute for Ivory— a substance made from elephant tusks and is now illegal — when he discovered synthetic polymer. This material was flexible, had thousands of uses, and could be used to replace resources like elephant tusks and tortoise shells that are difficult to obtain; it had a positive effect on animals and humans.

Saving the environment and the economy, the synthetic polymer seems like a miracle substance, does it not? The popularity and need for plastic rose during World War, ll and the Great Depression and continued to rise. It was not until 1960 that we began to see the negative effects plastic had on our environment.

While plastic has magnificently furthered us socially and economically, it moreover is damaging to our cherished planet and ourselves. It’s what Susan Freinkel calls “A Toxic Love Story.”

A Grey Seal at Horsey Beach in Norfolk England, tragically caught in a section of fishing net, an upsetting site that was reported to local animal welfare.

Waste from all around the globe gets dumped into the ocean; one of the most prominent impacts we see plastic having is on marine life. Due to the shape and size of plastic, marine animals often mistake it for food or get tangled up in it, because plastic never biodegrades once the animal dies the same piece of plastic can cycle through another animal.

(Kev Gregory/ShutterStock)

According to Ocean Crusaders’ plastic statistics, over 100,000 marine creatures in a year die from their interactions with plastic. Nearly every aquatic life form has millions of microplastic molecules in their body. This impacts us in various ways; when we eat seafood we ingest these microplastics.

Plastic contains many questionable chemicals, BPA is one. People seem to research and be most concerned with BPA. Reader’s Digest states that BPA is found to affect our thyroid function, increases blood pressure, increases diabetes risk, contributes to heart disease and causes birth defects. While this may seem unlikely linked to our use of plastic, it can be quite dangerous.

I believe we should stop making plastic. We have made so much of it already and it’s clear it is killing several life forms on Earth including ourselves. All the plastic on the earth right now will still be here when you have great-grandchildren; we may not be able to get rid of the plastic we have now, but we should stop any more from being made before it kills more animals, more humans, and create more messes.

“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” I know you’ve heard that before, but it is becoming increasingly important in the modern world. Plastic is not going anywhere, but we can reduce our use, reuse it, and recycle it so it can become something else like shoes, bags, chairs, playground structures, etc.  Knowing what can and what cannot be recycled, however, is difficult, especially when it varies in every city (recycling info for cities at bottom).

What it all comes down to is convenience. Are you willing to be inconvenienced and break your habits to save the earth? Remembering to bring containers, reusable silverware and reusable bottles to school can help reduce waste. Making environmentally smart purchases that will biodegrade and/or are not single use. It might seem like those things don’t matter, but it all adds up, and everything you do can help. I think it’s all worth it to save our cherished planet.

Plastic isn’t going anywhere, but we should fight for it to stop being made. It is our responsibility to stop using plastic and lower the demand, it is easier than we think.

Recycling Information and Resources:

Oregon City: http://www.oregoncitygarbageco.com/Recycle.pdf

Milwaukie: http://wmnorthwest.com/milwaukie/recycling.html

Canby: http://www.myyp.com/guide/Canby,OR/Recycling-Guide

Gresham: http://wmnorthwest.com/gresham/recycling.html

Portland: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/67473

Sources:

“The History and Future of Plastics.” Science History Institute, 20 Dec. 2016, http://www.sciencehistory.org/the-history-and-future-of-plastics.

Ocean Cleanup. “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” The Ocean Cleanup, http://www.theoceancleanup.com/great-pacific-garbage-patch/.

“Plastic Statistics.” Ocean Crusaders, 12 Nov. 2018, oceancrusaders.org/plastic-crusades/plastic-statistics/.

Strauss, Ilana. “The Missing Piece of the Plastic Debate.” TreeHugger, Treehugger, 19 Dec. 2018, http://www.treehugger.com/plastic/missing-plastic-debate.html

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