Posts Tagged ‘Plastic’

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by Jennifer Witherspoon, DC EcoWomen Executive Board, Vice Chair of Communications

The Dollars and (non) Cents of Single Use Plastic Bags

Whole Foods recently selected DC EcoWomen to be a recipient of donations through its “Nickels for Nonprofits” program. Now through December 17, each time you use your own reusable bag instead of a plastic bag at any of the Whole Foods’ store locations in Montgomery County, MD, 5 cents will be donated to DC EcoWomen. Please be sure to specify at the point of purchase that you want your nickels to be donated to DC EcoWomen!

Why is this important? You’ll be supporting DC EcoWomen and our mission to inspire and empower women to become leaders for the environmental community, plus you’ll also be doing your part to reduce plastic pollution.

Plastic Bags are Suffocating the Planet

According to One Green Planet: Single-use disposable plastic bags are suffocating the planet, with 60,000 plastic bags being consumed in the U.S. every five seconds. Manufacturers produce plastic bags by using non-renewable resources, such as petroleum or natural gas. Plastic bags take huge amounts of energy to manufacture, transport across the country, and recycle. They don’t break down in landfill sites, but over time they release dangerous chemicals. Plastic bags are difficult to recycle, blocking the sorting equipment used by most recycling facilities. They contribute to a widespread, global litter problem.

Plastic trash washed up on the shore in Mexico. © John Schneider (via Flickr)

More Plastics in the Ocean than Fish by 2050

According to the Ocean Conservancy: Trash in the water and on the shore can be mistaken as food by wildlife, or entangle animals with lethal consequences. Plastic also attracts and concentrates other pollutants from surrounding seawater, posing a contamination risk to those species that then eat it. Scientists are studying the impacts of that contamination on fish and shellfish and as well as the possible impact it may have on human health as well.

Plastic bags were only introduced to the American shopper in the 1960s. In a business as usual scenario, researchers from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation predict that plastic production will triple in volume from 2014 to 2050, and project that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean (by weight) by 2050.

Bag the Plastic Bag

Fortunately, cities, states and countries have been implementing bag fees since 2002. San Francisco was the first city in America to regulate the use of plastic bags in 2007 and Washington, DC soon followed with its own “Bag Law” – the first in the nation to impose a bag fee. Revenues from DC’s bag fee go to the Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Fund and have been used to implement a variety of watershed educational, trash capture and stream restoration projects throughout the Anacostia Watershed. Though reports have been mixed on DC’s overall success in reducing plastic bag use as well as how the funds are allocated, it seems clear that we can all do our part to reduce plastic waste.

Get Active, Fight Plastic Pollution, Spread the Word!

Let’s get into action to fight plastic pollution! Please join DC EcoWomen in bringing a reusable tote to shop at Whole Foods and ask that your nickel go towards DC EcoWomen. Put an extra tote in your purse or backpack for those unanticipated shopping moments. You can purchase an EcoWomen tote bag for yourself, or to share this holiday season.

The funds from Whole Food’s Nickels for Non-Profits program supports DC EcoWomen in hosting educational events such as our recent EcoHour conversation with Julie Lawson, the co-founder of Trash Free Maryland, who led efforts to pass DC’s “Bag Law.”

We’ll have a flyer available soon so that you can help spread the word in your office or in your community. You can also follow DC EcoWomen on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and re-share our posts with your community. You can post photos of yourself shopping with a reusable bag too! Please tag @WholeFoods and @DCEcoWomen and consider using hash tags such as #BagPlastic #NickelsforDCEcoWomen.

If the plastic bag was introduced to shoppers 40 years ago, let’s ban it in the next 40 years!

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By Robin Garcia

In a recent bipartisan victory for the environment, President Obama signed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 into law. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in March and was passed by both the House and Senate within a month.

The Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to include a ban on “the manufacture or the introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce of a rinse-off cosmetic that contains intentionally-added plastic microbeads.” The Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 does not apply to drugs that are not cosmetics as defined by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.


 

The ban on manufacturing will begin on:

  • July 1, 2017 for cosmetics
  • July 1, 2018 for nonprescription drug cosmetics.

The ban on introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce will begin on:

  • July 1, 2018 for cosmetics
  • July 1, 2019 for nonprescription drug cosmetics.

 

Banning microbeads is not a new concept in the US. Illinois was the first state to pass a ban on the manufacture and sale of products with microbeads in 2014. Illinois has been followed by Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, Maine, New Jersey, and most recently California.

So what’s the big deal with plastic microbeads anyway?

The Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 defines microbeads as any solid plastic particle that is less than five millimeters in size and is intended to be used to exfoliate or cleanse the human body.

You have likely seen them – these are the exfoliating beads in your face wash, body wash, and toothpaste. They are also placed in deodorants, sunscreen, hairspray, and other personal care products to deliver active ingredients and to create a film for that highly-desired “long-lasting” effect.

microplastic

Microbeads do their job very well, but when their job is done – when your face wash, body wash, and toothpaste is rinsed down the drain – that is where the problems begin.

Most water treatment facilities are ill-equipped to remove microbeads; consequently they have been found in every ocean, including the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. Microbeads can then be consumed by marine and aquatic organisms, such as fish. Recently, a study documented zooplankton consuming microbeads. This revelation especially troubling since plankton forms the bottom of marine and aquatic food webs.

Microbeads can make their way onto your dinner plate through the food web, but it is also making its way through another route – salt. A study found microbeads in both table and sea salt in China.

Even if you don’t ingest microbeads, they can linger in you. A dental hygienist has reported finding microbeads embedded in the gums of patients. Further research is needed to determine if there are any adverse effects, but microbeads are meant to clean your teeth and then be rinsed out, not to get stuck under your gums.

In marine and aquatic environments, microbeads are chemically attracted to persistent organic pollutants (POPs), increasing the concentration of these pollutants in the environment. When animals and humans digest microbeads, they are also digesting the POPs attached to the surfaces of those microbeads. POPs are lipophilic, meaning that they are attracted to fats and are repelled by water. This quality makes fatty tissues in organisms highly susceptible to microbeads and the chemical compounds that they can carry.

Marine debris degrades over time, leaving tiny plastic particles adrift

Marine debris degrades over time, leaving tiny plastic particles adrift

While this law is a great accomplishment, it does not cover every means of microbead introduction into the environment. Many microbeads are intentionally manufactured, but many are also created as larger plastic litter break down. It is important to continue reducing all plastic pollution by recycling and using reusable items.

If you’d like some ideas for exfoliates to use instead of products with microbeads, check out this list (note that one of the listed options is sea salt, which for reasons that I just mentioned may not be the best choice!). Additionally, look out for products with polyethylene or polypropylene in them – ingredients for plastic.

Robin is a Communication Specialist at NOAA and a DC EcoWomen board member. A DC native, she enjoys exploring her hometown, developing her yoga skills, and getting out on the water as much as possible. She also wishes she could hibernate until spring comes back.

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Guest Post by Catherine Plume

Today is the 44th celebration of our environment and our planet – Earth Day. Now, with climate change hitting hard, we need to make sustainable choices more than ever.  Chances are that by now, you’re a vigilant recycler, ensuring that you, your family, and/or housemates put all ”allowables” in the bin.  But after you’ve mastered the art of the recycling bin, what’s next?  Have you ever looked at your plastic footprint?

Wikimedia Commons

First, it’s important to understand why plastics are so bad. In a nutshell, there are a host of chemicals in plastics, and their impact on the environment and on human health is not looking good.  Plastics take a very long time to decompose, creating waste that lingers and/or is ingested by wildlife.  While most plastics are recyclable, it’s often cheaper (in short-term financial terms) to produce new plastic than to make products out of second-hand plastic. And most of the secondary products are not themselves recyclable – recycling a plastic water bottle only prolongs how long it takes to reach the landfill. Bottom line: throwing your plastics into your recycle bin is not enough.  So, what to do?  How about reducing the amount of plastics you consume in the first place?  

Wikimedia Commons

  1. Buy products that have no – or less – plastic packaging.  You can buy peanut butter, catsup, mustard, etc in glass jars. Pasta in a 100% paper package is just as good, if not better than pasta in a package with the little plastic window on it.

  2. Use glass containers for storing and microwaving your leftovers.   Save your glass jars and reuse them for storing leftovers. Just remember, NEVER MICROWAVE PLASTIC!

  3. Don’t buy or drink water in plastic bottles.  If the folks who work at on water quality at EPA drink DC water out of the tap, you can too!  Get a stainless steel water bottle and fill it up!

  4. Reuse those plastic vegetable bags.  In DC, we’re all about bringing our own bags to the store.  Take the next step and clean and reuse your vegetable bags!  Buy in bulk as you can!

  5. Make your own shampoo! This isn’t for everyone, but about 6 months ago, I gave up shampoo for water mixed with baking soda. I use white vinegar as a rinse.  It took my hair a few weeks to learn how to make its own oil again, but now my hair is as soft, if not softer,than when I used commercial shampoo.  Google “NO POO” and you’ll find a ton of information and testimonials.  I also use baking soda as toothpaste.  As an added benefit, my job requires considerable travel, and using baking soda has reduced TSA issues.  I’m so glad I made this change!

  6. Use baking soda and white vinegar as your primary cleaning products (just don’t combine them in a container!).  Instead of throwing out your empty (plastic) squirt bottles, reuse them to make your own environmentally friendly cleaning products. There are tons of recipes on the web!

  7. Use astringent to clean your face?  Make your own!  Basil, vinegar and lemon juice make good options – and they go soft on your pocketbook as well as the environment.

  8. Make your own food!  I’m a big consumer of plain yogurt, so my recycling bin was loaded with large plastic yogurt containers.  Then, a friend gave me a yogurt recipe that involves milk, a crock pot and a bit of yogurt to get the process going. EASY! By making my own yogurt, I’ve reduced by plastic consumption by some 50 large yogurt containers per year.  I store it in a crock that I found at Value Village. Now, I’m making my own hummus, tapenade, granola and raita, and I’m looking forward to expanding my repertoire.  AND, I’m saving money and making better food than what I can buy in the store – all while reducing my plastic consumption.

About two years ago, while doing research for my blog (www.DCRecycler.blogspot.com), I came across Beth Terry’s My Plastic Free Life blog.  Her book, Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too, was entertaining and easy to read, and gave me some great ideas for reducing my plastic footprint.  Check it out!

And, when you think about Earth Day, recognize that you’re not going to save the world on your own.  The carbon footprint I accumulate through my work travel every year is embarrassing, and I still buy frappuccinos in plastic cups even though I (really, really) mean to bring my own. I still have plenty of plastic in my life, but at least I’m thinking about what I do buy, and the impact of what I’m buying on the environment.  That’s a start right there!

Catherine Plume is the blogger for the DCRecycler