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Posts Tagged ‘Plastic polution’

Beach clean-ups can be exciting events with a large turnout where volunteers remove lots of waste. Sometimes there are bulky items; car tires, shopping carts, or shoes that people have left behind. I attended a clean-up recently and I am proud to report that there was little litter. My fellow Ohioans are removing the waste they bring with them. Since there were no big messes to clean up, we were able to spend more time on smaller things.

We spent two hours picking through the natural debris for small pieces of plastic. There were bottle caps, sandwich bags, and broken pieces of foam. For many of the plastic pieces, the source was unidentifiable. Trash found in and around our Great Lakes is called marine debris.

Plastic is the most common type of marine debris found in the ocean and our Great Lakes. Lake Erie breaks plastic down into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics.  Microplastics are plastic pieces less than five millimeters long. The smaller the plastics, the harder they are to clean up and remove from the environment.

Plastic marine debris can have negative impacts on our bodies and those of other living organisms. Animals can mistake plastics for food. The smallest animal on our planet, zooplankton, has been shown to ingest microplastics. We also eat, drink, and breathe microplastics every day. 

One study found that microplastics were in 90% of table salts. Another study estimates that we consume a credit card worth of plastic each week. We do not yet know all the harmful effects of consuming plastic, but scientists say that it likely exposes us to harmful chemicals.

We can make an impact by seeking opportunities to reduce or cut plastics products from our lives. When eliminating is not possible, be sure to dispose of items properly and in ways that reduce the risk of entering our environments. Lakes in Ohio are some of the best resources we have available. Our individual choices can help keep our Great Lake and our bodies healthy!


Written by: Courtney Woelfl, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Cuyahoga County

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Franklin County

References

Bartolotta, J. F. (2018, March 18). Plastic is Fantastic… Or So We Thought. Ohio Sea Grant College Program. https://ohioseagrant.osu.edu/products/twn25/plastic-is-fantasic-or-so-we-thought.

Loria, K. (2019, August 13). How to Eat Less Plastic. Consumer Reports. https://www.consumerreports.org/health-wellness/how-to-eat-less-plastic-microplastics-in-food-water/.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2008, November 14). What is marine debris? NOAA’s National Ocean Service. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/marinedebris.html.

NOAA. What are microplastics? National Ocean Service website, https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/microplastics.html, 04/13/16.

Parker, L. (2021, May 3). Microplastics found in 90 percent of table salt: potential health impacts? Environment. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/microplastics-found-90-percent-table-salt-sea-salt.

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Throughout the years, plastics have made our lives easier and more convenient, goods and services cheaper. We use them and dispose of them easily. I’m in debt to King Plastic. Having type 1 diabetes, plastics basically keep me alive; my insulin pump uses disposable plastic supplies that I throw away every three days. The car I drive and some of the clothes I wear have plastic which I dispose of eventually too. My keyboard and computer is made up of plastic, of which I have to trade in periodically. I’m not sure what becomes of them. My kids have benefited from plastics- they have had probably three times as many Legos, dolls, and electronics than I had growing up. We’ve been getting rid of these too recently. My dog chews on a plastic bone. The many choices of food I have at the store are thanks to plastic packaging. Hail to King Plastic!

You may have heard that there are three giant patches of plastics floating in the Pacific Ocean. You may have noticed more litter in state and national parks or in streams, rivers, beaches and lakes. Landfills are getting larger and larger. The uncomfortable truth of our convenient throw-away culture is that plastics are everywhere and we are starting to drown in them- literally. Plastics are showing up in our foods and the air we breath. Research suggests that we consume about 5 grams a year- the equivalent of credit card’s worth of plastics! Seafood often has small amounts of plastic because of all the ocean trash that they consume. If we prepare food with plastics, it can leach into our food. We breath plastic especially if we use a clothes dryer. We don’t know all of the health implications but some studies are raising some red flags. Plastic consumption is associated with reproductive, behavioral problems in children, and a host of endocrine problems.

For the sake of our health and the environment- we should quit worshipping King Plastic so much. But how? Consider these small behavior changes to keep plastic out of your body and out of the natural environment. Most plastics aren’t recycled either- so focus on reducing or reusing plastics. Although small, they really add up over a month, year, etc. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Limit single use plastics in the kitchen such as sandwich bags, wrap, etc. Use beeswax and reusable storage containers.

Avoid heating your food or beverages up in plastic storage containers or styrofoam.

Use reusable water bottles- avoid single use bottles.

Bring your own cotton reusable bags to the grocery or recycle your plastic bags.

Use laundry tabs or soap berries instead of laundry detergent in a plastic jug or better yet make your own!

Use wool balls for static reduction instead of dryer sheets.

Install a microfiber filter on your washing machine.

Shop for reused cloths.

Check the ingredients for all body care products to see if they have polyethylene or polypropylene in them. Avoid products with these two ingredients.

Use a bar of soap instead of body wash in plastic bottles.

Author: Dan Remley, PhD, MSPH, Field Specialist, Food Nutrition and Wellness, OSU Extension

Reviewer: Susan Zies, M.Ed, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences

Sources

Jill Bartolotta. The Toll of Plastics. OSU Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Inservice. February 18,2021. Zoom recording at https://osu.zoom.us/rec/share/CHNxkTyjQcymON8oUe_WN0MQHsln1KI3AzxbHbmNIeQIuM8N2-sT0CLyl12FO06c.hN44c5jppCbXdmw1

National Public Radio. Plastics- What’s Recycled, What Becomes Trash and Why? Access on 2/26/21 at Plastics: What’s Recyclable, What Becomes Trash — And Why (npr.org)

OSU Extension. Sustainable Action Through Video Engagement. Single Use Plastics. Accessed on 2/26/21 at Sustainability in the Kitchen: Single Use Plastics – YouTube

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