Archives
September 21, 2018
link to facebook link to twitter
More Stories
Annie Rasmussen 2/11/32-9/16/18 Enjoying ribs Imitating major leaguers Forum hosted by WLV for RP City Council candidates Police officers inspect inside of car It wasn’t an easy fight but Rancho wins again Sidewalk repair gets big break from City of RP Cotati residents decry lack of enforcement RP Safety Dept. climbs in remembrance of 9/11/18 Little ones with big Polynesian dancing spirit Football in full swing, 3rd win SC neighborhood sues illegal pot grower Emergency Alert System Test Sept. 10 & 12 Third pedestrian struck by SMART train SweetPea celebrates 31 years Polynesia celebrated at annual Pacific Islander Festival RP Public Safety report card RP residents provide input in police chief search 3.0 quake shakes Rohnert Park RP’s new interim police chief Penngrove Community Church celebrates 120 years Cotati Accordion Festival still a hit after 28 years Kid’s Day Parade celebrates our hometown heroes March for the blind highlights need for more accessible sidewalks Kids and firefighters compete in RP Cougars slay Dragons Rohnert Park Bike & Pedestrian Committee adds new member How to help victims of wildfires Plan approved for Station Ave. park Revisiting those who lost it all: October wildfire victims still on the road to recovery New principals 2018-2019 SMART celebrates a year of service Penngrove native set for amazing voyage Back to school for Rohnert Park and Cotati Office of Civil Rights agreement closes investigation of special ed complaint Penngrove grassfire destroys buildings Supply giveaways lend a hand to families RP to host community forum for public safety director search Search still on for A&L Market robbery suspect A unique university for dogs: Bergin University makes Hatchery and Green Mill buildings its new home RP waits to make update to emergency alert system SSU names new police chief International students continue to flock to SSU’s Language Institute RP Health Center celebrates anniversary RP fireworks to be added to agenda Busy night for RP City Council Cougar to Bear — Simmons’ new pelt SRJC picks up local quarterback The biggest little parade in the U.S.A. celebrates the 4th It’s not quite tennis, nor is it pickle ball, but rather something in between. 3.0 quake shakes RP 98 cited in traffic enforcement program A seed of thought grows into a peace garden: Burton garden completed A taste of nostalgia – Penngrove’s Power Up! Event

Plastic never really goes away

By: Jenny Blaker and Stuart Moody
May 3, 2012

On Cotati Creek Critters Trash Pick Up days, volunteers have been astonished and disgusted by the amount of garbage that finds its way into our waterways. Much of it is found at the storm drain outlets, clear evidence it’s being washed off the land, off streets and parking lots, backyards and schoolyards into the creeks. And much of it is plastic.

In April, Cotati Creek Critters hosted an event with Stuart Moody of Green Sangha’s Rethinking Plastics Campaign on the wonders of, and problems with, plastics. Since 2006, the campaign has inspired zero waste practices in schools and businesses, saving tons of plastic from the landfill every year, and contributing to several waste reduction ordinances in Marin County.

Plastics are everywhere. Take a look around your house, office, or grocery store. They cover our food, clothe our bodies, they’re in our computers, our gardens, our office supplies, in the ocean and even in our bodies. In 2010, the annual amount of plastic produced in the USA was about 50 million tons - roughly twice the weight of every man, woman, and child in the nation. In the same year, Americans threw away more than half that amount of plastic, not recycled.

Plastic never really goes away. Though plastic products may chip, break, shatter and tear, dispersing into tiny pieces, those pieces are not biodegradable. Almost all the plastic that has ever been made still exists. Over 180 pounds of plastic per person per year goes to landfill.

According to the EPA, only 7 percent of our total plastic waste gets recycled - and even that is a misnomer. For example, many communities that recycle will accept only no. 1 and no. 2 plastics, which cannot be made back into their original product.

Water bottles (no. 1 plastic) are made into articles such as shampoo bottles, polar fleece, and carpeting. No. 2 plastics can be made into plastic “lumber” and items such as traffic cones. These become trash when the structure or object is damaged or destroyed. In contrast to aluminum, glass or paper recycling, plastic recycling is really just “down-cycling,” a step on the way to landfill.

Much of the plastic that gets discarded or blows away on the land finds its way into the oceans, where it breaks down into tiny, tiny pieces. Here are the phytoplankton and zooplankton, tiny aquatic plants and animals, which form the basis of the marine food chain. In 2001, a surface trawl of the Central Pacific Gyre between San Francisco and Hawaii found six pounds of plastic particles for every pound of zooplankton. A subsequent trawl in 2008 found the ratio at 46:1.

This growing accumulation of debris is lethal. Millions of seabirds and fish, and tens of thousands of animals including whales and turtles, mistake plastic debris for food, and are found with their carcasses full of plastic bottle tops, plastic bags, and other bits of plastic debris, or get tangled up in it and are drowned or suffocated.

Plastics attract fatty substances, including other petrochemicals. Plastic fragments in the ocean can collect highly toxic chemicals at a concentration up to one million times greater than in the ambient sea water. In a process called bio-accumulation, creatures that consume plastic concentrate these toxins in ever greater amounts up the food chain.

Plastic chemicals are found in the bloodstream of about 95 percent of Americans. Phthalates, used to provide softness or pliability for plastic items, break down under the action of heat, light, or mechanical stresses, and migrate into the air or water or whatever substances they are next to, including water bottles and toys. Every plastic item that wears down leaves a trail of plastic particles that get lifted by the breeze into the air all creatures breathe.

In humans, plastic exposure has been associated with cancer, asthma, and diabetes. High concentrations of phthalates correlate with higher risk of endocrine disruption leading to premature delivery, early onset of puberty, and other reproductive disorders. Bisphenol-A, used in polycarbonate items such as five-gallon water bottles, as well as lining most food cans, is also a known endocrine disruptor associated with cancer, diabetes and obesity . So what can we do?

At the April event, “Green Mary” spoke about her successful 10-year old business which “greens” conferences, fairs and festivals, and other events, with the aim of creating zero waste. She showed us how little waste we really need to create if we shop consciously, minimizing unnecessary packaging, using “real” plates and silverware instead of throw-aways, scrupulously composting everything that can be composted, recycling everything else, and minimizing the use of plastic. After a meal for 300 people I once attended, Green Mary held up three foil-lined tea bag sachets and said, “This is all the waste we created at this event!” So it can be done.

Sachiko Knappman of Mottainai Sonoma then described and demonstrated “furoshiki,” a Japanese method of creating a wide variety of containers of all sorts from lunch boxes to baby carriers to shopping bags to gift wrap, using simple squares of cloth tied in specific ways. This way, your piece of cloth can have many uses and be used over and over again in different ways, lasting for years.

Everyone can do something, however large or small, from minimizing the amount of plastic you bring into your own home, to supporting the proposed county-wide ban on plastic bags. It’s a great way to start, and if we all take these actions, we will save untold suffering across the planet.
 
Jenny Blaker is Outreach Coordinator of Cotati Creek Critters. Stuart Moody is Board President of Green Sangha and initiated the Rethinking Plastics campaign in 2005.