Imagine life without plastic: a world without straws, Ziploc bags, and plastic water bottles. The idea seems unfathomable — plastic is abundant on Earth and readily available for humans to use. Plastic is convenient, yes. However, the repercussions will be irreversible if no further action is taken.
In order to understand why people should reduce their plastic use, we first must address why and how it is damaging. In its simplest form, plastic is a combination of a synthetic polymer (made from fossil fuels) and a blend of colorants, flame retardants, UV stabilizers, and other plasticizers. Plastic isn’t biodegradable, but it does photodegrade into smaller pieces which are then consumed by organisms and accumulate in them. This causes animals to believe they are full and stops them from eating. When humans eat fish and other organisms that have consumed plastics, it stays in their systems. Additionally, the chemicals found in discarded plastic are able to leach out into water sources and evade common water filtration devices.
At the end of the school term, a survey was conducted at Milton High School about the use of single serving plastics. The survey was conducted to get a better understanding about what high school students knew about plastics and how they and their families were using plastic materials. Some students seemed fairly knowledgeable about the topic and when asked if they believed plastic was an issue.
“I believe that it is an issue because it is causing harm to our planet. I plan on buying more products that are reusable, so I can have an impact on changing the earth for the better,” said a student.
Another student said: “I believe any little thing can help the environment, no matter how small the item may seem. If everyone limited the use of disposable plastics, the environment would be impacted greatly.”
Others acknowledged they believed plastic was a problem, though they didn’t fully understand why and some thought the issue was not relevant and not a problem. Therefore, we feel it is important that Milton gains an awareness about the use of plastic and learn its alternatives.
The major instigators of single-use plastic are corporations that produce plastic water bottles. According to the video produced by “The Story Stuff Project,” approximately a half billion water bottles are bought each week and that can circle the Earth five times. The process of extracting the materials for the creation of the bottles from petroleum and shipping the bottles uses a tremendous amount of fossil fuels and encourages reliance on Middle Eastern oil conglomerates — and then once the bottles are used, 80 percent are thrown into landfills. In those landfills, plastic bottles can take between 450 and 1,000 years to break down, depending on their chemical makeup, and even when they’re broken down, they never fully decompose.
This article was drafted to spread awareness and inform the general public about people’s relationship with plastic. There is a reason for the first “R,” in the phrase “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”: it’s the most effective and cheapest way to minimize our negative environmental impact.
Invest in multiuse plastics. A person can utilize Tupperware, drink out of a reusable water bottle, use their own grocery/produce bags, invest in a bamboo toothbrush, carry portable silverware, or donate to any of the many charities dedicated to saving the environment. If we all became a little more mindful of what we throw away, we can have a significant impact on our environment, especially in a town like Milton.
Milton is a microcosm of American society, and as its citizens we owe it to ourselves to keep the land healthy and clean.
“It’s just one straw,” said 8 billion people.
Brenna Haakinson and Rae Johnson are Milton High School seniors in AP Environmental Science.