June 8 is World Ocean’s Day! Kate Daniels Kurz, Executive Editor of The WIP, recently sat down with Sarah-Mae Nelson, Climate Change Interpretive Specialist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Nelson has been plastic free for over three years.
Plastics degrade in quality every time they are recycled, but they cannot be broken down into their most basic elements, meaning that they never go away and we keep producing more of them. More often than not, plastics are simply thrown away, making their way into the waterways and eventually into the ocean. Along the way, the plastics become smaller and smaller (they can be as small as a single molecule), making them ever easier for animals to ingest. These plastics cannot be passed through most digestive tracts, meaning that they fill up the stomach, eventually leaving no room for actual foods or water, killing the animal. Plastics are also extremely fat-soluble. Nelson believes that each and every person has some amount of plastic in their liver because it is easily ingested through drinking water and foods.
Plastics present a huge problem, and one that policy-makers are not helping to solve. Manufacturing plastic requires oil, so multi-billion dollar oil and gas companies are highly motivated to push plastic-friendly legislation. In fact, Nelson was surprised to learn that it is legally impossible to live plastic-free, but stresses that it is still possible to cut out most of it with a little effort.
In addition to limiting individual plastic consumption, several cities have taken small steps to reduce the amount of plastic used everywhere. Municipal plastic bag bans do have significant effect on overall ocean health. These laws are a positive first step, but governments need to feel pressure from citizens to change the laws that require plastics and enact laws that ban plastics whenever possible.
Furthermore, significant social change is paramount. Degraded recycles plastics are still usable for making fibers. Many clothing and carpeting companies use these fibers to make their products, but they are more expensive than conventional products. Since plastic is associated with a cheap product, it is very difficult to convince customers it is worth it to invest in these products, even though they are actually of a very high quality.
To learn more about the effects of plastics on the environment (and which sneaky products contain them), check out The World Without Us.
This interview was produced by Timothy Barrett in conjunction with Monterey Peninsula College Library.
- Kirstin Kelley, Assistant Editor
About the Host: Kate Daniels Kurz is the founder and Director of The WIP. Her vision is of a world where women and men value and embrace the feminine perspective for global problem solving. Katharine believes that it is through women that solutions to issues from the gravest human rights injustices to the severest effects of climate change, war, and poverty can be found.