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Turning a ripple into a wave

Published on September 19th, 2019

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
I get it…how can one person’s actions have an impact on a global trash issue? Yes, we’ve read all the reports about plastic in the ocean, but Asia is the big problem, not the rest of us. Plus we already have a recycling culture… what more do you want?

One person’s actions, combined with others, leads to change. Regardless of the big offender, change occurs when the ripple becomes a wave. As for recycling, have you been reading the news? Most of it had gotten shipped to China to process, but that stopped a year ago. Now there’s recyclable trash getting stored in warehouses, waiting for a solution.

During a recent trip to Ireland, I saw how public restrooms traded paper towels for electric hand dryers, and casual dining locations used re-usable plates and utensils – not plastic. For an island nation, throwing trash away doesn’t go away.

Does what we use add up? The Earthwatch Institute’s 2019 Plastic Rivers Report for the United Kingdom offered these statistics:

• 150 plastic water bottles are used each year by the average person.
• 5.5 billion plastic bottles are littered, incinerated or sent to landfill, producing 233,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.
• 14.6 billion cigarette butts are littered each year.
• 2.5 billion takeaway coffee cups are used and thrown away each year, 99% of which are currently not recycled.
• 4.7 billion straws and 16.5 billion single-use cutlery items are used each year, a huge amount of which are not recycled and are often made from plastic polymers that are particularly hard to recycle.
• Despite the use of plastic shopping bags falling by 86% in 2017-18, the seven major supermarkets still issued over one billion bags in the year.

We can blame the stresses and strains of the modern working life to justify the environmentally damaging practices, such as single use water bottles, coffee and cocktail cups, and fast food packaging. How about those Amazon packages? Massive boxes filled with stuffing for that one item.

Changing habits is not easy. Our reliance on convenience is an addiction, and while no 12 Step Program exists, it’s not hard to reduce or reuse, and if needed, recycle. Together, we turn a ripple into a wave. Surfs up!

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