Pass on Plastics

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Single-use plastics are convenient, but their impact can be devastating just beyond the walls of restaurants and checkout lines.

According to the Natural History Museum, approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans each year.

Consider the lifecycle of a plastic bag, for example. It takes seconds to produce one, but it can last in excess of 400 years before degradation.

The qualities that make plastic an attractive material are the same ones that make it harmful: it’s moisture resistant, strong, and inexpensive to produce. This translates to waste with incredible staying power.

We can no longer afford to subscribe to the throwaway culture that favors speed and convenience over sustainability and compassion. National Geographic cites that nearly 700 species of marine animals have been reported to have eaten or become entangled in plastic.

If the widely circulated images of birds stuck in six-pack rings and turtles ensnared in plastic fishing nets do not inspire you to lend your voice to the growing call for change, perhaps the presence of cancer-causing chemical additives commonly used in plastic production will.

Foamed plastic, or Styrofoam, contains the toxic carcinogens styrene and benzene, which adversely impact the respiratory, nervous, and reproductive systems.

Organizations like Greenpeace are leading the demand for big corporations to phase out single-use plastics (engage.us.greenpeace.org), but lasting change starts at the individual level. This is a big problem, but your small change is of vital importance.