Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New York Times is on a Plastic Roll

Wow, twice in a week! The New York Times published an article about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It has taken them a long time to cover it, but I'm really glad that they are.

ABOARD THE ALGUITA, 1,000 miles northeast of Hawaii — In this remote patch of the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of miles from any national boundary, the detritus of human life is collecting in a swirling current so large that it defies precise measurement. Light bulbs, bottle caps, toothbrushes, Popsicle sticks and tiny pieces of plastic, each the size of a grain of rice, inhabit the Pacific garbage patch, an area of widely dispersed trash that doubles in size every decade and is now believed to be roughly twice the size of Texas. But one research organization estimates that the garbage now actually pervades the Pacific, though most of it is caught in what oceanographers call a gyre like this one — an area of heavy currents and slack winds that keep the trash swirling in a giant whirlpool.

Scientists say the garbage patch is just one of five that may be caught in giant gyres scattered around the world’s oceans. Abandoned fishing gear like buoys, fishing line and nets account for some of the waste, but other items come from land after washing into storm drains and out to sea.

Plastic is the most common refuse in the patch because it is lightweight, durable and an omnipresent, disposable product in both advanced and developing societies. It can float along for hundreds of miles before being caught in a gyre and then, over time, breaking down.

But once it does split into pieces, the fragments look like confetti in the water. Millions, billions, trillions and more of these particles are floating in the world’s trash-filled gyres.

PCBs, DDT and other toxic chemicals cannot dissolve in water, but the plastic absorbs them like a sponge. Fish that feed on plankton ingest the tiny plastic particles...

Please read the rest of the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/10/science/10patch.html Even if you are already familiar with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, there's some new information you'll want to see.

Non plastic side note-- It interests me that there's this at the end of the article: "Travel expenses were paid in part by readers of Spot.Us, a nonprofit Web project that supports freelance journalists." Is this the future for research journalism?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Plastic and Food...and The New York Times

BPA is about to get a lot more attention. BPA isn't in all plastic, but it is in a lot of it, and especially in a lot that touches what we eat. The lining of most cans, for example.

Nicholas Kristof, in today's New York Times:
Your body is probably home to a chemical called bisphenol A, or BPA. It’s a synthetic estrogen that United States factories now use in everything from plastics to epoxies — to the tune of six pounds per American per year. That’s a lot of estrogen.

More than 92 percent of Americans have BPA in their urine, and scientists have linked it — though not conclusively — to everything from breast cancer to obesity, from attention deficit disorder to genital abnormalities in boys and girls alike.

Now it turns out it’s in our food.

I think you will want to read the rest of this article. Here's the link again: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/08/opinion/08kristof.html?hp

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Plastic Is Making Us Fat, Part 2

Colin Beavan's blog post today sheds more light on how plastic is making us fat.

And it suddenly occurred to me that only food that is bad for us has any trash associated with it. Only food that is bad for us needs packaging. So I've been thinking about a new healthy eating diet. All you have to do is never eat food that has packaging associated with it and you'll automatically end up healthy and skinny!

Healthier people, healthier planet. Yay! Because it turns out that what trashes the planet trashes ourselves.
Read the rest of Colin's excellent post here.

While science may never figure out precicely how the chemicals in plastic affect us, from making us fat to messing with our reproductive systems, it is pretty much a no-brainer to see that the stuff IN the plastic is, 99% of the time, not good for us.

Eat Naked Food!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Hardest Thing about avoiding Single Use Plastics?

Eating out. Hands down. I can control the plastic that comes into my house. Getting restaurant food without plastic is the thing I find most challenging.

For example today I met a couple of friends for lunch at Grand Central. We found a table in a public area so that one friend could eat her lunch from home (smart girl!), and the other two of us could grab something from one of the many food stalls. Working close by, I know the lay of the land and what my choices are for food served without plastic. Today's choice was Two Boots Pizza served on a paper plate. Once in line though the strombolis caught my eye, so I ordered one. When the line got closer to the register I saw someone else's stromboli delivered in a foil dish with a plastic lid. Oh no! So I asked the cashier if I could get mine on a plate, without the plastic.

You know the Visa ad where commerce (the ad calls it "Life" but REALLY? It is commerce.) is thrumming along, everyone using a Visa Debit, until someone pulls out cash and the consumer ballet comes to a screeching halt? That is what happened today at Two Boots! The cashier and two other employees behind the counter were on the case, making sure my stromboli got a plate and not a dish. Orders stopped, the line backed up. The kitchen guys were popping their heads in the window to see who cuased the ruckus. After all that I got my stromboli on a plate, served with a plastic dish of sauce, which I returned. Oy. I should have stuck to pizza.

The best thing would be to pack my lunch, but I'm lazy and don't do it very often. So past that I find restaurants and items that are "safe" to order. Even then, I know full well that the food I'm served comes with all kinds of plastic, I just don't see it when it is served to me. Preparing my own food is really the best option.

...unless the restaurant industry can get the message that we all want less plastic with our food. What kind of effort will that take?