Paper or Plastic? Plastic, and Lots of It!

Posted by April Nockleby, ALDF's Online Content Manager on December 3, 2007

I just learned of a new island in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii. Excited about a new vacation spot? Think again. It’s not an island with sandy shores, palm trees and cabanas. It’s an island of garbage and it even has a name; "The Great Pacific Garbage Patch." Why shouldn’t it? It’s two times the size of Texas.

Stop.

Think.

Two times the size of Texas.

Undoubtedly it is an environmental hazard, as 80% of the island is plastic and weighs 3.5 million tons. There is no logical solution for clean up and experts say that the "island" is only going to get larger. That is, of course, unless us humans have a dramatic change of heart and stop producing so much plastic, make plastic that is biodegradable and substitute plastic products. But that’s an ambitious goal considering our "throw-away" society has become so dependant on plastic and big business continues to feed us catchy phases like, "plastics make it possible," while showing us images of premature babies in incubators.

So why am I, as an animal rights advocate, rambling on about plastic and our environment? Because this world is One and everything we humans do affects all other living creatures we share this planet with, right?

There is no good estimate of how many birds and marine life have suffered and died from our manmade continent of waste, but we can be sure that it has been far too many. To a sea turtle, a plastic bag floating in the water looks remarkably similar to a jelly fish. When plastic is ingested by sea birds and marine life, it fills up their system but doesn’t pass. The end result is starvation and death.

How can we do our part to not contribute to the "garbage sprawl?" Recycle more and use less. Rethink buying that case of bottled water and use a refillable water bottle. Bring your own carry-out container to restaurants when you dine out. When you go shopping, whether it be for groceries, clothes or holiday gifts, pack your goodies in your own reusable cloth bags. Yes, it takes forethought and a bit of planning, but be creative and think outside the Styrofoam box. Aren’t our world and the animals worth it?

Interested in planning your next vacation to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Watch this short video to see all the island has to offer:

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