Earth Day 2018 Goals: Pitch the Plastic!
- Skip the straw. When ordering a drink, politely ask for “no straw, please.” Straws pose a serious danger to marine life such as turtles and fish that try to ingest them thinking they are food. Straws are used for minutes and then tossed in the garbage, where they become an instant source of plastic pollution.
- Use reusable shopping bags. Marine animals and birds often confuse floating bags for edible sea life such as jellyfish and plankton. Once ingested, the plastic blocks the digestive tract and the animals starve to death. Other animals drown after becoming entangled in plastic waste.
- Use a reusable water bottle. 50 billion water bottles are sold yearly in the United States, but only 23 percent are recycled. Just one plastic bottle can take hundreds to thousands of years to decompose.
- Pack your lunch in a reusable lunchbox. A great way to reduce single-use plastics is to pack your lunch in reusable containers instead of plastic baggies and pack it in a reusable lunchbox rather than in a plastic bag.
Why is reducing plastic important?
Plastic pollution is one of the gravest threats facing ocean and freshwater animals today.
About 8.8 million tons of plastic enters the ocean each year worldwide – roughly a dump truck full of plastic every minute of every day. In the United States alone, plastic waste averages more than 200 pounds per person each year. Rivers and lakes also suffer from plastic pollution and contribute to the massive amounts of plastics found in the oceans.
The convenience of single-use plastics has added to an ongoing global problem of plastic pollution that, without immediate action, will only continue to increase. Single-use items like plastic bags and straws are responsible for countless health problems in marine wildlife. Once in the environment, these plastics break into smaller fragments known as microplastics. Often times, these microplastics are ingested by animals, which in some cases can lead to death.
Humans should be concerned for our health, too. Over time, as fish consume these plastics, their bodies may absorb harmful chemicals that are given off by the plastics. As consumers of seafood, it is important that we know the potential risk of these chemicals traveling up the food chain, possibly making their way into our bodies.
The Florida Aquarium and many other organizations around the world are joining together to educate the public about the importance of plastic reduction. In an effort to reduce its use of plastics, The Florida Aquarium no longer offers plastic bags at its gift shop or plastic straws at its café.
You, too, can make a difference in the choices that you make. Next time you are out enjoying a meal, skip the straw, and when shopping, bring a reusable bag. Small changes in everyday habits can lead to big changes in the future of our planet.
Written by Kaitlyn Fusco, The Florida Aquarium
Originially published in the April 2018 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.