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Alice Shevchuk
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April 18, 2018
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Plastic Pollution: Earth Day 2018

Earth Day is an opportunity to reflect on one of the few things that every person, past and present, has in common: our beautiful planet. With our busy schedules and hectic lives, it’s easy to forget how our actions affect the Earth, but we all have a responsibility to cherish and protect our planet – and not just on Earth Day.

At SilverStone Group, we try to be conscious of our impact on the environment. We make every effort to be paperless and are fierce about recycling and environmental responsibility.

plastic-pollution

Several years ago, we started providing each of our Associates with tumblers to use in the office and began offering our clients and guests glassware for their beverages. We stopped stocking disposable cups.

Why? Because in one year alone, SilverStone Group Associates used approximately 22,000 Styrofoam cups and 36,100 plastic cups. That’s just one, 220-person company in the Midwest. Can you imagine if every office in the country stopped using disposable cups? In addition to having a smaller ecological footprint, companies would save a pretty penny.

Earth Day 2018 – Plastic Pollution

This year, Earth Day is dedicated to raising awareness about plastic pollution, so we thought we would try to help spread the word.

Versatile and convenient, plastic is used in everything from vehicles and building materials to most of our electronic devices. It makes up our shopping and sandwich bags and food containers. We package almost everything in plastic.

According to Roland Geyer, an industrial ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, we have produced 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic since 1950. That’s enough to cover Argentina, the world’s eighth largest country. Virtually all of this plastic is non-degradable, and all of it (with the exception of the 12% that gets incinerated) , eventually gets thrown away (even after a second life through recycling). In the U.S., 75% of discarded plastic ends up in landfills or just gets lost.

The U.S. is the world’s top producer of plastic waste, creating almost 2.5 times as much waste as the runner up: China. While we are good at managing most of our plastic waste, the U.S. is still one of the world’s top 20 plastic polluters. In fact, while Europe recycles 40% of their plastics,  the U.S. recycles only 8%.

Health Effects

We don’t often think about it, but the negative effects of plastic are startling. Plastic pollution is now recognized as a hazard to public health. Harmful chemicals leached from some plastics used in food / beverage storage have been shown to correlate with an increased risk of chromosomal and reproductive system abnormalities, impaired brain and neurological functions, cancer, cardiovascular system damage, adult-onset diabetes, early puberty, obesity and resistance to chemotherapy.

Many plastics contain phthalates (DEHP) and the chemical BPA. Food and drink stored in these plastics can become contaminated by them. These chemicals can be harmful to human hormones, reproductive systems, and early childhood development.

These health dangers make sense when we consider that plastics are made out of the same oils and gases that fuel our cars. We wrap our food in it without a second thought, yet we would never consider storing our food in gasoline.

What to Do

It’s easy to disregard the giant “garbage patches” of plastic in our oceans, or the wildlife that is starving to death with bellies full of plastic beads. It’s easy to discount climate change in general, so it’s especially simple to overlook the contribution of plastic production and waste to this issue. Never mind our overstuffed landfills. Out of sight, out of mind.

However, how can we overlook what affects us directly? How can we ignore plastics leaching their cancerous, growth- and hormone-disrupting chemicals into our and our children’s food and water? Plastic pollution affects us every single day.

So what do we do?

Whatever we can. Yes, we need to encourage legislators to enact changes and controls that would minimize plastic pollution. We also need to empower journalists to expose the plastic situation. But let’s get real. Most of us just can’t be bothered.

That doesn’t mean we should stand idly by.  Make informed, mindful decisions about how you use and dispose of plastic.

Plastics are everywhere – they’re in your facial scrub. Research products and choose natural exfoliators. Plastics are in the clothes you wear, so opt for natural fibers – they breathe better anyway. Consider what you want your kids’ sippy cups made from – it’s doubtful the answer is benzene.

Since many plastics can’t be properly recycled, truly think about what you do and don’t need. You’ll probably save some money along with the planet. Through reducing your plastic consumption, you will reduce the amount of plastic that makes it into the environment. When possible, opt for paper at the supermarket, and consider if you really need that straw for your drink – straws cause wrinkles, you know.

For things that need to be plastic, when you are done with them, just make the simple choice to throw them in with the recycling rather than the trash. And if your company doesn’t provide you with a tumbler for work, bring your own.

There’s some great information, tools and tips in www.earthday.org’s Plastic Pollution Primer and Action Toolkit.

To learn what happens to cast off plastic, see the video below:

Information used to support this blog came from the following sources:

http://www.earthday.org/wp-content/uploads/Plastic-Pollution-Primer-and-Action-Toolkit.pdf

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/19/climate/plastic-pollution-study-science-advances.html

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/07/19/538166682/plastic-is-everywhere-and-recycling-isnt-the-end-of-it

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