So we thought plastic was on its way out? California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont have banned plastic bags. To encourage reusing bags, some areas require merchants to charge customers for paper sacks.
Oregon and California have also limited the use of plastic straws. Not so fast says the covid-19. Just as we’re getting used to bringing our own cloth bags to the grocery store, plastic manufacturers think they may have found their savior in the pandemic. The plastics industry is lobbying hard to overturn bans on single-use plastics. They argue that disposable plastics are the best option for safety and the general well-being of population during this crisis. (Plastic is “disposable” only in the sense that after one use it’s thrown away, out of sight until it turns up in the ocean or elsewhere.)
In the short term, this may be the way to go. In the long term, as John Maynard Keynes said, we’re all dead. But a plastic bag takes as long as a thousand years to decompose. At some point we’ll have to face up to that reality. And what to do with medical waste is another growing long-term problem.
Haseltine Pozzi gathers plastic bottle caps, cocktail toothpicks, shotgun shell casings and detergent bottles that wash up on her hometown beach at the town of Bandon on the southern Oregon coast. The debris come from as far away as Asia and Europe. So far, she has fabricated eighty life-size animals, real and imagined: a jellyfish made of golf balls, sharks from flip flops and plastic lighters. Haseltine Pozzi Haseltine Pozzi gathers plastic bottle caps, cocktail toothpicks, shotgun shell casings and detergent bottles that wash up on her hometown beach at the town of Bandon on the southern Oregon coast. The debris come from as far away as Asia and Europe. So far, she has fabricated eighty life-size animals, real and imagined: a jellyfish made of golf balls, sharks from flip flops and plastic lighters.
Maybe a plastic-debris raft the size of Texas — actually two Texases — floating around the ocean amuses you; then you’ll get a real chuckle from the latest evidence of micro plastics being found everywhere! Everywhere includes both outside and inside our bodies.
Yes, we know there’s a lot of plastic in the ocean. We’ve seen the news reports about plastic in whales’ digestive systems and sea life tangled in plastic waste. That’s the big plastic. The micro-sized plastic? We’re eating and inhaling it.
A study published by the American Chemical Society reports that in a year’s time we consume about 100,000 pieces of micro-sized plastic, most too small to be visible. The study estimated that adult men, on average, would eat, drink and breathe in 121,664 particles during a year — that’s 333 per day — while women would take in 98,305 — 270 per day. The numbers are projected from more than 3,600 samples of items, including air, alcohol, bottled water, honey, seafood, salt, sugar and tap water.
The production of plastics still increases every year, so researchers are not surprised that it is finding its way into our food chain. The research is in its beginning stages and scientists speculate that our actual plastic intake is really much more than what they have found so far. Beef and pork, for example, have not yet been studied. Nor have processed foods which are likely to be a bonanza of plastics.
Researchers say they do not yet have enough data to speculate on what this means. Maybe we’ll learn that eating plastic is good for us.
So far there is no Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for plastic.