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  • Susan Russell

Kontiki to Plastiki  and What We Can Do

By Ellen Neumaier:

The seas were rough and stormy.  Strong and mighty.  At other times, so still.  But there was one thing Thor Heyerdahl didn’t have to contend with on his intrepid Kontiki sail from Peru to Polynesia in 1947: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  Plastic wasn’t a problem until after WWII, in the 1950s, when plastic use became common.

It is estimated NOW that 11 Million tons of plastic trash ends up in the oceans each year.

Nor did the young hero in Armstrong Sperry’s children’s classic, Call it Courage.  This young man’s voyage was shorter; but he had to be brave and face the elements. Plastic waste settling in gyres, calm spaces in the oceans, was not an obstacle.  There was no one-use throw-away plastic.

Dustin Hoffman’s character, Ben, in the movie, The Graduate, is confronted by his future father-in-law who booms, “There is one word I want to say to you, Only One Word!”

Ben cringes because he knows he has been guilty of other transgressions.

“Plastic!” the father-in-law declares loudly.  “It’s the future!”

Plastic, life-saving in many instances, has become a terrible problem.  What makes it a wonder product, is its downfall.  Plastic never goes away.  It breaks down to smaller and smaller microplastics, then ingested by tiny sea creatures, works itself up the food chain.

Scientists and doctors estimate that each of us eats a credit card’s worth of plastic each week!  Microplastics have been found in all our organs, including placentas. What is it doing to our health?

How do you raise awareness of the 17.6 Billion pounds of plastic flowing into the oceans every year? National Geographic scientists and explorers asked.  To answer they built a boat entirely out of plastic bottles and named it PLASTIKI.   Then successfully sailed PLASTIKI 8,000 miles from San Francisco to Sydney, Australia.   We all can experience the voyage, without getting seasick, by visiting:

Mechanical attempts have been ongoing to clean up the mess, but scientists say about 70% sinks,  making an underwater trash heap.  Disturbing the area could cause more harm than good, perhaps even damaging the zooplankton and affecting their ability to sustain marine life.

Only 8% of plastics are actually recycled.

New York City spends $426,000,000 each year to export waste to incinerators or landfills.  How much are each of us WNY taxpayers spending?

Things we can all do:

*Urge our New York State Senator and Assemblyman to support these 2 Bills:

Over 80% of people worldwide support regulation and reduction of single-use plastics.

Currently in NY Senate and Assembly Environmental Conservation Committees

Packaging Reduction and Recycling Act-- S 4346A,  Assembly -- 5322A

Makes producers responsible for disposal costs, will reduce packaging 50%

NY Bigger Better Bottle Bill –S 4047 Assembly  -- 8668A

 Includes wine, liquor, iced tea, others.  Increases deposit to 10 cents.

East Aurora’s New York State Legislators:

Senator Patrick M. Gallivan –716 656 8544

Assemblyman David DiPietro –716 655 0951

*We can Purchase items with NO or little plastic packaging:

Shampoo/Conditioner bars are the products without plastic bottles –East Aurora Food Co-op

Granular detergent like Bio-Clean might be the safest laundry product- East Aurora Food Co-op

ACES cannot recommend Laundry sheets, that at first seemed like another wonder product. They are found to contain microplastics, PVA, polyvinyl alcohol, that cannot be removed by our municipal sewage system.

*We can Take our own containers for leftovers at restaurants everywhere, mugs where possible

Let’s train ourselves -- just like grocery bags.   Mugs at Elm Street Bakery, Kornerstone Cafe, etc. Check out our ACES website BYOC page for businesses that encourage customers to bring their own containers.

*We can Ask organizations to have “everyone bring their own dishes” events. Make get-togethers “zero-waste”

* Everyone needs a reusable water bottle

Stainless steel is dishwasher safe –can be found at Aurora Outfitters, TJMaxx, Vidler’s.

Maybe we can’t eliminate garbage patches, but we can stop making throw-away plastic!

And some things are progressing.  The whole country of Nigeria just banned single-use plastics!

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