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Plastic: What's the big deal?

Good Morning Watershed Explorers,

Plastic is in the news frequently these days. A common scientific prediction circulating around, is that if the world continues its trend of plastic use, by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Plastic is definitely portrayed as the villain, and rightfully so in many cases! There are some exceptional uses for plastic however, which should not be overlooked. As in so many cases, it's about finding a balance. It's about using only what we need so the amount of waste we produce is limited. These are easy words to write but hard habits to change. I hope that this blog will provide some basic steps for cutting back on plastic so the prediction described above does not become a reality.

The spark for this blog came from a book that was published in 2019, authored by Rachel Salt, entitled The Plastic Problem. Rachel Salt writes for AsapSCIENCE, a YouTube channel providing science education to viewers, she is also an environmental biologist.

This book is extremely detailed and covers everything about plastic. The history, the future, the good, and the bad. It's a very useful tool in educating young scientists about how to tackle the plastic topic.

Plastic is a big deal because it is used to make just about everything. Rachel Salt did an experiment when writing The Plastic Problem, she counted how many plastic items she touched starting when she first woke up in the morning. She realized that in just 20 minutes of being awake, she had already touched 37 plastic objects. There is plastic in items you might not even realize, including plastic fibers in your clothing! Some of the plastics a person encounters every day are absolutely necessary for safety. For example, there are plastics on buses and cars that can withstand heavy impacts from crashes that keep the people inside protected. There are also important plastics that help in the medical field to keep medical staff and patients safe. These plastics help to reduce healthcare costs and often reduce the rates of infectious diseases. So . . . not all plastics are bad.

If not all plastics are bad, why are they still the villain in most stories? Plastics have been in production for about 60 years, and in those years over 9 billion tons have been created. This is a hard amount to imagine but picture 1 billion elephants, YIKES! The problem, is that of the 9 billion tons, more than half of it has turned into waste. Many plastics are very difficult to recycle and end up as trash on earth. The worst culprits are the single-use plastics which are extremely unnecessary. These items include plastic straws and silverware which are usually only used for several minutes before they are thrown away. These items are also too difficult to recycle so they always end up as trash. It is estimated that 8.3 billion plastic straws have been found on beaches across the world.

This blog is not meant to encourage you to not use plastic, that would be close to impossible. However, if every person can limit the amount of unnecessary plastic they use, this would help to decrease the amount of plastic that ends up in our landfills and oceans. Here are some items to consider, remember above where it said to use only what you need? Here are some great tips that can help you do to just that:

  1. Buy less: try to purchase only the items that you need.

  2. Choose items, or help your parents to choose items that have less plastic packaging. One of the ways that you can do this is to buy produce that is not wrapped in plastic, or to forgo placing your produce in a plastic bag. My family purchases loose produce and we place it in our reusable bag at the register.

  3. Reuse: if you do buy an item that comes in a plastic container, find a way to reuse the container. You can use old yogurt cups for paint or even catching critters to observe for a bit!

  4. Skip the single-use plastic! As much as possible, try to refuse plastic straws and silverware. For example, if you are going for ice cream, bring your own reusable spoon!

  5. Purchase bulk items that come in a larger package. An example of this is soap. If you buy a large container of soap and put it into reusable soap dispensers in your home this limits the amount of plastic bottles that end up in the recycle or waste bucket.

Only about 9% of all the plastic that is created each year is recycled. It's better to limit use if possible.

I really hope that this blog was interesting and helpful. If you would like to add any of your own comments or if you have any questions, please email me at

Happy Exploring Watershed Scientists,

Mrs. Morissette

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