Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Banning Plastic: Mahalo, Hawaii!

Green Sea Turtle with Plastic Bags
I'd like to say Mahalo (thank you) to Hawaii's chapter of the Sierra Club and all the people who helped in the fight to ban the use of plastic bags at all check outs in the state of Hawaii. This fight has been ongoing for some time. The initial movement tried to ban non-biodegradable plastic bags at a state-wide level. But, when that measure didn't pass, the organizers of the fight didn't give up. Instead, they took on banning plastics at the local level, county by county. Honolulu county's city council announced passing the ban a few days ago, making Hawaii the first state to claim a state-wide ban on plastic bags.

Albatross Carcass, Cause of Death: Eating Plastic
According to Robert Harris, director of the Hawaii chapter of Sierra Club, it was a two-year struggle to make this happen. He calls plastic bags "the modern-day tumbleweed" and says he feels Hawaii's residents finally accepted the need for change because the majority of them spend so much time at the beaches, seeing their local environments being ravaged by the effects of plastic litter. Anyway, it's good to know that persistence at the local level can bring about change. It gives me hope that other states might be able to take on this fight locally and begin working towards a ban on plastics on a national level.

North Pacific Gyre Trash
In case you haven't heard of The North Pacific Gyre and the enormous islands of floating plastic trash gathering in the circling currents there, you really need to read about it. It's being called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Reports have said these islands of debris are at times larger than the continental United States. The currents of the oceans have been carrying the drifting plastic there from all around the world. And it's killing our oceans, which are home to a huge portion of our world-wide food source. It's not just big plastic things like nets and bags and toys that are polluting the waters and killing marine life, but the tiny microscopic pieces, the raw materials of plastics, which incidentally are filled with carcinogens, that the fish and other marine life consume. Then, we catch and eat those fish, if they don't die first. Imagine what these toxins and contaminated foods might be doing to us. This cannot be allowed to continue unchecked. We need change, and change needs to begin locally!

So, what can you do about it? Well, the best thing you can do is stop consuming so much plastic. If you don't demand it, there won't be so much call to supply it. This means making some choices that might not be comfortable at first, but once you get used to the changes, this too will become second nature. You can do things like buying reusable grocery bags for your shopping trips, using non-plastic reusable drinking cups for your drinks. Refraining from purchasing so many bottled beverages in plastics. Buying green products made from recycled materials as much as possible. And recycling is so important. Please be sure you are working toward being part of the solution rather than continuing to be part of the problem. Because change happens at the local level, one person at a time. Your personal choices really do make all the difference!

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