Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What's Your Plastic Footprint?

Thoughts of plastic sit in my cranium, not decomposing. It's everywhere—clogging landfills, devouring oceans and leaching stealthily into our food supply. I read that every piece of plastic that was ever produced still exists in some shape or form except for a small amount that’s been incinerated. I can hear my feet screaming, “Stop the plastic! I wanna get off!”

But how can I reduce my plastic footprint in our takeout, throwaway society? Can you really row against the corporate tide when your lifejacket is made out of plastic? They say change starts from the bottom up. Well I hope there are plenty of grassroots activists at the bottom of those landfills because these thoughts keep accruing in my cranium and they’re going nowhere fast. Every time I need to use a square of Saran wrap, again with the thinking.

My fixation started with plastic grocery bags. I acquired so many, I could have covered a continent with them like Christo. Then came the thoughts of all those empty water bottles out there littering the landscape like plastic mountain ranges. And the guilt that came every time my newspaper was delivered in a plastic bag even when the forecast called for drought. Sure, I considered canceling my subscription, but that meant putting the L.A. Times out of business, along with its employees, so I reverted back to plan A: Anxiety.

By now, my thoughts are 20 landfills deep of all the single-use plastics we waste: grocery bags, water bottles, produce bags, garbage bags, Ziplock Baggies, Saran wrap, styrofoam and hard plastic food containers, coffee lids, eating utensils…yada, yada, yada. Hey plastic, get off my planet! Your petroleum-based polymers are putting us in peril! Think I’m being all drama queen for nothing? Did you know:

• Only 2-3% of plastic is recycled.

• Over 500 billion bags are consumed annually that are made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic that does not biodegrade but instead photodegrades, breaking down into smaller pieces of plastic.

• Each year 1,000,000 sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals die from ingestion of or entanglement in plastics.

• A huge swath of the Pacific Ocean that scientists refer to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch twice the size of Texas is full of a plastic stew that is entering the food chain.

Oh, but my vast, internet-gleaned knowledge doesn’t mean I think my own plastic doesn’t stink. I’m as much of a Polythene Pam as anyone. The only difference is I carry my own water bottle, multi-use grocery bags, cotton produce bags*, and I wash and reuse baggies when I can. But most importantly, I try to stop and consider my options. Why, just the other day, I had to decide whether to buy organic yogurt in #5 nonrecyclable plastic or regular yogurt in #1 recyclable plastic. What’s an eco-conscious overthinker to do? I want organic and to recycle too! See why my cranium is so full? I'm exhausted. Soon I'll need a drool cup. And it better not be made of plastic.

Is it just me or were you thinking all this too?

*I highly recommend the Ecobag as seen in my photo.


  1. I HATE DETEST ABHOR what we have done to the planet. How can we make it go away-that horrid morass in the ocean is a nightmare.
    Makes me so angry :(
    Do you know the Rubber Duck book?

  2. Not familiar with the Rubber Duck book. What is it?

  3. I must say: this is pretty depressing stuff! I prefer to bury myself in the kitchen! Call me an ostrich or whatever you want!

  4. I like your honesty! But still, we gotta consider the reality and do what we can for the planet.