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Mission of the York Energy Efficiency Committee

Our mission is to respond to the global warming crisis by promoting energy efficiency, alternative energy, and environmental initiatives throughout the town of York, Maine.
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Plastic Pollution

Victoria Simon, a member of the York Energy Efficiency Committee, wrote the following article for the Dec. 17-30, 2010, issue of the York Independent. Find it at http://www.yorkindependent.net/

Plastic pollution realities

According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually.(Estimated cost to retailers is $4 billion).Plastic is the perfect product for a throwaway, consumer driven culture that values convenience and affordability over almost everything else.

Single use plastics and disposable plastics are the main source of plastic pollution. These items are used for seconds or minutes but their remains last for thousands of years. Plastic bags fly and float into drains, creeks and rivers costing money to clean up, blocking drains and ending up in the marine environment. Bags that land in waterways eventually find their way into the ocean where they are slowly broken down by ultraviolet rays from sunlight, but with no loss of material. The plastic is degraded only into smaller pieces, which become bite-size to smaller and smaller animals.

How much plastic, from bags or otherwise, is floating in the oceans? One count quoted in “The World Without Us” puts tiny plastic particles as more prevalent than plankton. A count by Greenpeace found that the Pacific Gyre, a circulating dead zone in the Pacific, contains more than a million pieces of plastic microdebris per square kilometer of ocean surface.

Unlike glass and metal, recycling plastic is costly and does not stem the production of virgin plastic product. The plastic that is not carried out to sea is landfilled, downcycled or exported to other countries.

What our state is doing: Maine has a law (38 1605) that requires retailers who use plastic bags to provide a receptacle for collection. They must ensure that the bags are collected and recycled.

The Maine Grocers Association has signed onto an initiative to reduce plastic bag use by 30% by 2012.

What we are doing as a town: York contracts with Waste Management to provide curbside pick up and recycling of plastics labeled PET #1 and HOPE # 2. Soft drink and liquor bottles, milk, water, juice containers, laundry, bleach and cleaning containers are also recyclable. Plastic eating utensils, plastic bags, drinking glasses, all lids and caps are not recyclable. For more information and a complete list go to www.wm.com

The most powerful is the personal. Here are some things you can do:

• Practice the 4 “Rs” Refuse Reduce, Reuse, Recycle in all of your daily activities.

• Just say NO Thanks when offered a plastic bag and have your reusable bag with you wherever you go.

• Carry a small fork and spoon for those times you are eating at a restaurant providing exclusively plastic utensils. You can purchase reusable ‘sporks’ online at “Light My Fire” or at the Kittery Trading Post, Eddie Bauer etc.

• For food containers not numbered for recycling in York, check with the company. Stonyfield and Cabot Farm will take boxed up used containers and mail you coupons.

• Take a mug to the coffee shop and travel with your own water bottle.

For more information and inspiration check out:
The Plastic Pollution Coalition. http://plasticpollutioncoalition.org/
Life Cycle of a Plastic Bag” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLgh9h2ePYw
Drop The Plastic Bag” http://www.causes.com/causes/11443-drop-the-plastic-bag

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change
the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”   — Margaret Mead

Victoria Simon is a member of the York Energy Efficiency Committee. Columnist
Jennifer Saunders will return in the next issue of the York Independent.

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