I am trying to get this published in Humboldt County
Letter to Editor
A friend of mine recently returned from a Hawaiian vacation. She went to Oahu. I know her as someone who loves the water and the beach. I asked her how she enjoyed her trip and curiously she said she didn’t enjoy or go in the water that much. I asked her why and she said there was so much plastic on the beach. The beaches around hotels are cleaned but she favored less frequented, less touristy beaches.
I have long deplored the insidious encroachment of plastic into our world. The commercial interests have decided that any product we buy should have a hard or soft layer of protective plastic. Some packaging is even worse. They combine plastic and metal in the new resealable pouches such as mylar and a thousand other Frankenstein concoctions.
These packages and the materials they are made from are good at protecting their contents, for a long time. In a short-sighted way, it works well for products made a long way away and a long time ago, cause the package does not degrade (for many years) and the “product” is protected from germs and from oxidation. However, these benefits conferred on the product and the convenience of it for manufacturers then turns into an absolute horror for the earth.
The product may be enjoyed for 5 minutes, a day or a week but the package may stay with us for a thousand years or longer. They don’t degrade well. They are not meant to. They are meant to protect the product, for a long time. However, after the product is consumed we are left with these horrible packages that blow into, are dumped into or somehow find their way into the ocean, waterways as well as on streets and parks. Even when they go to landfills they sit there mostly not degrading and slowly polluting the land and water.
We are very numerous. We create a lot of trash with our eating of potato chips, vegan energy bars and jerky sticks. Is the convenience of a fast snack worth the wrapper that may stay around for a thousand years? I am raising this issue consumers, yes. We can do better. Try to buy in bulk or fresh or from farmers markets. However, we all know the plastic and plastimetal materials concocted in labs by chemists and material scientists ARE EVERYWHERE. They are hard to avoid. Often there is no choice, or no good-choice at the grocery store. The choice may be forgoing something we really want or getting the wrapped product.
I would like to say we should demand our local stores not carry these pouches, that they not carry non-recyclable or non-degradable packaging. But it is so pervasive. We can grow our own or go to farmers markets for part of our purchases but we all know in our fast-paced world a grocery store is essential.
We should demand manufacturers fundamentally change the attitude and materials that are used to protect our foods. I don’t exactly know how to do it. What do you think? Is a debate and organizing on this issue important?
What I do know is that if the beaches of Oahu are being littered with pieces of plastic and mylar food packaging something has got to change. Oahu is in the middle of a very large ocean, quite far from the American landmass, quite far from the Indonesian archipelago and quite far from China. But lots of plastic is ending up on Hawaiian beaches.
I ask that we take this issue on. It is not a side issue. It is a matter of global survival. Do we want an ocean that can support life? Do we want to leave a clean world to our children or is the entire world our garbage dump, meant to be used and abused by the humans and left polluted, choking and dying?
Andrew Nash, Petrolia