Friday, June 12, 2009

Questions from a novice ecoist... Re: Plastic

Greetings from San Diego,

I am becoming a novice ecologist. I recycle more than most, drive the Prius car and I am more careful about what I put into the environment in terms of fertilizers, household chemicals and other consumer goods including food. I also compost about 15% of my total household kitchen waste.

I share these facts with you because I am puzzled about plastic. After all paper, glass and some plastics are placed in the recycle bin what appears to go into the trash can (to the land fill) are light weight plastics non recyclable containers made from a combination of paper and plastic and Styrofoam. It appears to be that plastics are a big problem!

In every day terms I was completely unaware of how to keep packaging plastics and mixed plastic-paper containers in the recycling circle of re-use. Some must be disposed of but I am finding a disturbing shortage of information on what the city will take for recycling and what must be transported to specialty recycling plants?

It is not beyond the scope of people to band together to recycle over 90% of all waste.

My greatest concern is the braising ignorance that I personally maintained up until 2009 and how much I still do not know. I am not so much "disturbed" by my own ignorance of what to do with plastics but rather why those who do not care what they do with all of their waste still throw everything in the trash to go to the land fill?

I recently leaned that there is a river of plastic in the Pacific Ocean the size of Texas. As this decomposes it will be consumed by sea creatures greatly impacting the health and reproductive ability of many ocean species. From what I have read these plastics combined with an array of other pollutants, but primarily the plastics could damage the oceans ecosystem permanently much like deforestation is destroying the rain Forrest.

Can you please comment on this and let me know what organizations are working most effectively on research and solutions with regard to this problem in its many aspects?

An additional question I have is why can we not produce all plastics to be bio-degradable and zero-impact? If GM was capable of planning the obsolescence of cars why can we not plan the decay rate of plastic - and make doing so Federal Law?

Thank you.

Bill Zimmermann, San Diego

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