#OrisCleanUp #BlogTour #BooksOnTour #Day4
You’ll be alarmed at the facts, just like Anne was, of the amount of plastic disposal littering our oceans and harming the wildlife. Today, Anne shares her findings, and the good reason behind why Ori’s Clean-Up was inspired.
I wrote my new book Ori’s Clean-Up, because the environment is important to me and it was a means for me to convey this important message to our children. I am passionate about it and I do get emotional. I become sad and angry when I see turtles whose shells are a figure of 8 as their growth has been constricted by plastic, or dead birds that have ingested lighters and bottle caps. Just like recently, when I saw this article in my local paper, ‘Plastic bag ban ruins shopping’. The lady who wrote in says: “Am I the only one who hates this ridiculous ban on…plastic bags…this is nothing more than a dreadful inconvenience.” I felt pretty mad.
However, I was pointed to an intriguing article in The Economist, a magazine of high journalistic integrity. It not only took the emotion out for me, but, presented some interesting facts and figures in an even-handed manner.
Most of the plastics in our oceans are from countries in “fast-developing East Asia,” where there are poor collection systems or none at all. I note a recent post saying Delhi has banned all single-use plastic and Indonesia has launched a National Action Plan on marine plastic. Change is slow but any step in the right direction is a good step.
The Economist says the perception of plastics as ugly and unnatural is not a new concept, but the rubbish has increased as the production of plastic has gone up (from 2m tonnes in 1967 to 380m tonnes today). What is new, is the suspicion that microplastics (what plastic becomes when it has been exposed to water, weather, erosion in the ocean) are causing widespread harm to the environment, animals and humans in a manner we are not yet aware of. Apparently, what is known on this subject is not hugely alarming, but there is not a lot known and much to discover. Researchers have identified 400 species that ingest plastics or get entangled in it. Studies have shown that if swallowed by fish, compounds in plastic can be absorbed into flesh from the digestive tract. However, there are no studies to show if these toxins can progress up the food chain, such as mercury in fish can.
So, time and research will shed more light on this. But for me, species ‘ingesting or being entangled in’ plastic is bad enough. Another recent post I note; two sperm whales wash up on a beach with much plastic and other rubbish in their stomachs. Surely this isn’t their natural state??!
Further in The Economist article, it was found that making a cotton shopping bag leaves a larger carbon footprint than making a plastic bag, such that the fabric bag would have to be used 131 times to make up for its footprint. I found this surprising and somewhat disappointing. However, having purchased my first fabric bag at 19 years old, I have used my cotton bags more than several hundred times so they can ‘earn their keep’ as it were. They just need to be used until they are literally falling apart! Nothing wrong with that. And keep in mind how many plastic bags you’ll save from ending up in landfill and/or our oceans.
The article continued to say that even though most countries (aside from the East Asian areas) are good at collecting plastics, there is “too little recycled plastic…to buy.” Erratic demand is dampening the supply while insufficient supply inhibits demand. Hmmm, the chicken or the egg dilemma. Well, I guess governments need to step up here to set appropriate targets and support and enforce them.
Apparently, what the East Asian countries are going to do over the next few decades could make or break, so let’s see. In the meantime, not as a policy-maker, not as an expert, just as a consumer, I am still going to use my green bags, recycle, buy my recycled paper and kitchen towels and do my best to cut my consumerist appetite. Won’t you join me?
Article by Anne Donnelly.
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