Once people become accustomed to a certain way of living, it can be hard to shake them out of it. After all, following a routine gives people a sense of order, a feeling of a familiarity, and in a way, comfort. However, as we learn more about how human behavior affects the environment, we are learning that many of our choices and habits can actually be quite detrimental to our ecosystems and the animals living in it. Our relationship with plastic is one of the most jarring for the environment. While your morning cup of coffee, the plastic utensils that came with your Seamless order, and the plastic bag you accepted on your way out of the supermarket may not seem like they can do much harm, when grouped together with all of the disposable cups, single use utensils, and plastic bags other people use, it ends up being a lot of trash, more than we can handle actually.
It is estimated that an appalling 8.8 million tons of plastic trash make its way from land to the oceans every single year. This plastic trash doesn’t just float along innocently either, marine animals become entangled in it, mistake it for food, or worse, begin treating it like it’s a normal part of the ecosystem … not exactly what we want marine animals to get accustomed to. Plastic trash puts approximately 700 marine species in danger of extinction. It’s never been more obvious that something needs to be done to mitigate the effects of our plastic pollution … and fast.
Thankfully, there are states around the U.S. working hard to put a halt to plastic trash. In 2014, California signed into law SB 270, a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. According to Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE), once this ban was enacted, out-of-state plastic giants spent millions of dollars trying to combat it. With opposition from these outside sources, California government decided to reaffirm with their constituents that the ban was still a law they wanted to support. And after the votes were tallied on November 8th, the answer was clear: yes, keep the ban!
With the new law in effect, most grocery stores, retail stores with a pharmacy, convenience stores, food marts, and liquor stores will no longer be able to provide single-use plastic carry-out bags to their customers. These stores won’t leave customers who forgot their tote bag at home completely in the lurch, though. They may provide a reusable grocery bag or recycled paper bag to a customer at the point of sale at a charge of at least 10 cents. The 10-cent tax may not seem like enough of a deterrent to get people to bring reusable bags from home, but research shows that a tax on plastic bags, if high enough, is the most successful method when it comes to reducing usage and inspiring behavior change. And goodness knows, we all need to change our behavior with plastic if we are going to save the oceans and Earth, for that matter.
The fact that California chose to put the well-being of the environment over special interests is a tremendous victory. In a world where so much is driven by money and intimidation is such common practice, Californians choosing to stand up against these powers to better the planet is truly commendable. California is just one state, though. If we are going to really reduce the amount of plastic trash ending up in our oceans, we need to have a nationwide ban on single-use plastic bags.
Thankfully, you don’t have to wait around for government action to start cutting plastic out of your life! Bring Tupperware to restaurants when you want food to go (and ask for them not to include plastic utensils), remember to carry your tote bag with you when you go shopping, bring a reusable mug when you go for your mid-afternoon pick-me-up at the coffee shop, and choose to use a reusable water bottle instead of buying a plastic one at the store. These are simple adjustments in our lives that add up to a big difference for our environment! Humans are the reason there is so much plastic in the ocean, so it our responsibility to #CrushPlastic whenever possible!
Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.
Lead image source: Rich Carey/Shutterstock