Un-Happy Earth Day

Mary Sweeten, Editor, Weavers Way Shuttle

That noise is my head exploding. Pour a bucket of water on me, plastic microparticles and all.

As you can see, this issue of the Shuttle is kind of about Earth Day. For like the 48th year (exactly the 48th year, actually), Americans have an excuse to to worry about something we all all agree on — we’re screwing with the planet, and we have to do better.

Wait, what? Did I say agree? It’s been 48 years and yet, it’s as if environmental outrage has merely become a permanent job opportunity.

My job would be solid waste, if my nerves could handle it. As my family knows, I HATE LITTER. Now, as if I needed another reason to despise single-use plastic beverage bottles, comes a study from SUNY Fredonia (it’s a Lake Erie thing) that finds significant amounts of plastic microparticles in bottled water. Here’s a nice story about it from the BBC: www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-43388870.

How’s that junk getting in there? Maybe it frays off when you open the cap. Maybe it’s in the air. Most likely, it’s already in the water — all the water. 

Shuttle contributor Sandy Folzer has already written about the proliferation in treated wastewater of plastic microbeads, now mostly banned from personal-care products but still abundantly employed in stuff from chewing gum to tires. She’s also mentioned plastic microfibers, still shedding off your clothes at the rate of a gram or two per washing-machine load. Think all these plastic bits are too small (100 microns, the width of a human hair, or less) to matter? They do get tangled up in the guts of filter feeders like plankton. Can your sushi be far behind? Think they’re too inert to make a difference? At the very least, toxins such as DDT and BPA have been found to adhere to microplastic particles.

We’re not talking about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch here — although we could, because it too is rife with little tiny pieces of plastic bottles floating amid the nets other macro-debris. (And don’t get me started on who’s mining and selling bottled water — that’s another column.)

Single-use plastic bottles are hard to recycle — manufacturers have made them so thin (good for them?) that they foul recycling machinery. The Chinese don’t want our crappy bales of recycled paper any more because of all the, yes, single-use plastic bottles stuck in there.

Solid waste and water pollution. Perfect together. Can we please just say no?