Earth Day is an annual celebration in April designated to promoting concern for the environment by raising our awareness of things we can do to protect our environment and preserve our planet. One way we can protect and preserve is by addressing the food contaminants in our environment. Despite our efforts to make the world a better place through our own actions, food contamination is still prevalent. There are many scenarios that might cause food contamination, but most are one of four categories: biological, chemical, physical and cross-contamination. Physical food contamination happens when actual objects contaminate foods, such as plastic, glass, metal, and hair. In this blog will focus on plastic.
According to USA Today, humans have produced 18.2 trillion pounds of plastic since the '50s. Though this number is staggering, it’s not unrealistic because almost everyone drinks bottled water and much of our disposable packaging is plastic. Since the 1970’s, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of plastic floating between Hawaii and California, has grown to more than 600,000 square miles, twice the size of Texas. This is the largest of five (5) such trash collections in the ocean. https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/science/2018/03/22/great-pacific-garbage-patch-grows/446405002/
The plastic littering the world’s oceans poses a severe threat to whales and other marine life. Proof of this was evident when a sperm whale found washed up on the southern Spanish coast in February 2018 died of gastric shock after eating 64 pounds of plastic, including bags, nets, ropes and even a plastic gas can. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-11/dead-whale-in-spain-found-with-nearly-30kg-of-trash-in-stomach/9640212 Picture of plastic from whale's stomach
You may not live near an ocean but plastic buried deep in landfills can also leak harmful chemicals that spread into our groundwater and food supply. Why just focus on the earth once a year? According to Ecowatch.com, there are small changes we can make throughout the year that can significantly protect our planet and reduce the amount of plastic in landfills.
Choose to reuse when it comes to shopping bags and bottled water. Cloth bags and metal or glass reusable bottles are available locally at great prices.
Refuse single-serving packaging, excess packaging, straws and other "disposable" plastics. Rather, carry reusable utensils in your purse, backpack or car to use at barbecue’s, cookouts, potlucks or take-out restaurants.
Reduce everyday plastics such as sandwich bags and juice cartons by replacing them with a reusable lunch bag/box that includes a thermos.
Bring your “to-go” mug with you to the coffee shop, smoothie shop or restaurants that allow you to use them. This is a great way to reduce lids, plastic cups and/or plastic-lined cups.
There is no national law that mandates recycling, so state and local governments are often the ones who introduce recycling requirements. Sometimes states team up with non-profit organizations to implement a successful recycling program. When I lived in states that encourage increased recycling, I proactively recycled. Raising awareness, implementation of recycling programs and litter literacy can benefit our plant and reduce food contamination.