Earth Day was observed on April 22, and there has never been a more pressing time to take care of our planet.
Seemingly every day, a new media report comes out describing some sea animal—such as a whale—being found injured or dead with a disgusting amount of plastic in its stomach, wrapped around its neck or stuck in its airway.
According to reports, almost 18 billion pounds of plastic end up in oceans every year. In 2050, there could more plastic in the oceans, weight-wise, than the weight of fish.
The problem is growing close to home. In a report last year, a professor from the University of Milwaukee said that plastic waste in the Great Lakes and on its beaches is “a huge problem”
Small pieces of debris called microplastic can be mistaken for food by aquatic animals. Chemicals from the plastic can then enter the meat of fish that humans then eat.
Research is still being conducted on microplastic, but researchers are suggesting limiting plastic consumption.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants to impose a statewide tax on plastic bags—which would make Illinois the only state to have such a tax—and while yet another tax might anger some residents, they can also help the environment by reducing their use of plastic bags and plastic utensils.
They can also help by participating in the Beverly Area Planning Association’s annual Clean and Green, which will be Saturday, April 27, from 9 a.m. to noon, as part of Chicago’s Clean and Green Day of Service.
Brooms, rakes, shovels and bags will be provided as volunteers clean up messes that were in all likelihood avoidable if people took an extra few seconds to discard their garbage properly.
In oceans, experts have begun using Seabins, which can reportedly collect the equivalent of 90,000 shopping bags or about 170,000 plastic utensils during a year.
One expert, however, said Seabins won’t save the oceans—only behavioral and cultural change will work.
Some restaurants have scaled back their use of plastic straws. Last year, the White Sox became the first Major League Baseball team to stop using them. The team offers biodegradable straws at fans’ request.
Some critics scoff that minor measures such as that make people more ecologically friendly. However, if more people made a simple effort, Earth will be cleaner and safer.