Ocean Plastic Pondering

I see a sea free of plastic.


I can think of a hundred or so uses where plastic is used to great effect in medical applications.  One that pops to mind are those bags they use for IVs.  But for every life-saving application, I can think of a million uses where plastic is gratuitous.  The plastic doll, with her plastic bags and technicolor accessories, packaged in a stiff plastic carton covered with plastic stickers and then put in yet a plastic carrier bag.  For example.


Have you heard of the continent-size plastic mass in the Pacific Ocean?  I don’t want to use this blog to dwell on the negative.  So don’t worry, I wont show you heart-breaking pictures of dissected albatrosses and baby seal guts full of plastic.  Nor will I try to freak you out and make you feel bad for using plastic.  But look at the picture below.  This is how much plastic that goes into the sea every 15 seconds.



Out to Sea – The Plastic Garbage Project just opened in the Zurich Museum of Design / Switzerland.
Photo: The central installation: Every 15 seconds this amount of plastic garbage gets released into the sea…

How to we tackle the clean up? There are several initiatives, they will be funded.  Support them.

How do we begin to even tackle the cause?  This answer is: One Straw at a Time.


Praveen Varshney started an initiative called “Down to the Last Straw” http://downtothelaststraw.com/  Please look at his website and Facebook page Down to the Last Straw.


What woke me up to write this blog was being reminded that if we personally don’t address these problems, who will?  Who is responsible – if not me?  And you?  But we all need inspiration to change.  This blog is about exemplifying people and systems who are doing the right thing.  It might be about one little straw or one little non-GMO alfalfa seed.  But one small fearless step is all it takes to go forward.  Praveen’s initiative is this one small step forward.


Since liking the Down to the Last Straw on Facebook a while back, I was re-reminded about the monster floating mass of plastic.  I assumed, perhaps like you… that we heard about the problem, were upset about it and then assumed that someone fixed it because we didn’t hear so much more about it since.  Back to business as usual and the problem was taken care of and gone.  Right?  Uh…no.   Praveen’s Down to the Last Straw initiative reminded me (inconveniently, if truth be told) about the plastic problem.


Since then I was inspired to double my efforts to systematically refuse straws with drinks, disposable lids for teas I buy when travelling.  Since plastic was invented, not one piece of it has healthily and non-toxically decomposed.  Tons of it goes into the sea.  My daughters and I signed a pledge when we were at the Victoria landfill last year to not drink from disposable plastic containers.  But travelling shakes your principles.  We were thirsty and boy did we feel terrible when offered cup after disposable plastic cup of water on the plane last week. My six-year-old said, “Mom, I promised not to drink out of plastic when we were at the dump.  But I’m so thirsty”.  Surely airlines can eat some of their margins to again provide non-disposable cups.  They do so in business class….


Harry's Bar interior. Venice Italy.

Harry’s Bar interior. Venice Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Italy is a wonderful place to avoid carrying bottled water, as I informed every guest that came to visit me for the 6 years we spent living here.  Ever see one of those little nondescript Italian ‘bars’?  They are on every street corner in Italy.  They usually have a few old folks sitting at a table and a few Vogue/GQ models standing at the counter. The ‘bars’ are places to get a coffee, a drink of water, a few friendly words, cigarettes (!), a shot of grappa, bus tickets, a quick croissant or a little treat for a toddler (that the barista invariable cooes at and talks to for 5 minutes with wild hand waving).  At the counter, after saying hello to the room “Buongiorno”, you plunk down 30 euro cents and ask for a ‘bicchiere d’acqua, per favore’.  You receive a chilled or room-temperature (your choice signora) glass of water.  It isn’t a huge glass but one you can down in 3-4 average-size elegante sips.  Refreshed, 1 minute later you sashay out of the bar and onwards with your day.  What a pleasant alternative to carrying around bottles of water – Viva Italia!


If we absolutely *must* use disposable containers,  let us use ones that have a realistic chance of breaking down.  Let’s refuse that last straw, that lid, those forks, those trendy colourful toys and meaningless gadgets.  Let that awareness blossom into a deeper respect for the oceans, the sea plants, the plankton, the marine invertebrates, the fish, the birds, the sea mammals, ourselves.


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