I've been thinking for the past six months or so about the amount of waste our family produces. I've been seeing it everywhere since the move, probably because my brain can finally relax after that chaos and focus on anything other than unpacking boxes and ensuring we all have a doctor to visit and dental care.
I go to the grocery store daily. I used to meal plan and make weekly trips, but for some reason over the past few years, I'm more fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants when it comes to meal planning, and with growing kids, we're always in need of something. Milk. Floss. Body wash. Chips.
No. No more chips.
Anyway, the clerk asks me every day: Is plastic okay?
I nod and shrink a little, aware (again) that I've forgotten my reusable bags.
I was putting the plastic grocery bags in the recycle until my husband informed me (again) that they're not recyclable. Finally, today, as I was unpacking groceries I thought: no more. No more of this utter waste.
Then, I got on Facebook and saw an article about some massive collection of plastic in the ocean, somewhere between Hawaii and California named the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP).
This article on Nature.com tells the story, one I was entirely unaware of.
According to a Scientific Reports article, "Our model, calibrated with data from multi-vessel and aircraft surveys, predicted at least 79 (45–129) thousand tonnes of ocean plastic are floating inside an area of 1.6 million km2; a figure four to sixteen times higher than previously reported."
I read that and am stunned. Stunned. There are 79 thousand tons of plastic floating in one part of the ocean?
Readers, how did I not know this?
The story gets worse.
According to Scientific Reports, "Global annual plastic consumption has now reached over 320 million tonnes with more plastic produced in the last decade than ever before1. A significant amount of the produced material serves an ephemeral purpose and is rapidly converted into waste. A small portion may be recycled or incinerated while the majority will either be discarded into landfill or littered into natural environments, including the world’s oceans2."
I love the description of single-use plastics as serving an ephemeral purpose. Honestly, I'd love to meet the writer of that. Brilliant.
You can read the entire article yourselves and be duly horrified. Better yet, read it to your families over a home cooked meal. I'm not kidding. I'm going to do this.
We are a water-bottle buying, plastic bag using, toss it in the garbage kind of family, no second thought to the environmental impact of our actions in part because we have a recycling bin in our kitchen, which somehow morally absolves us of wrongdoing?
Well, all I can do from here on out is....better.
I'm not going to call this Operation Zero Waste because I know myself and because I don't think extremes have ever served me well. I do know people who are fully onboard with the zero waste train, and I applaud them. Zero waste, however, isn't a realistic place for me to begin.
Not using plastic grocery store bags is a realistic place for me to begin.
So that is where I'll start. From here on out, my goal is to have reusable grocery bags in the car at all times. No more bags from the grocery store. No more wadding up the plastic and shoving it in recycling and trying to feel decent about myself when, in fact, I've been lazy and dismissive.
While I'm not one to opt for perfection or hold myself to an unreasonably high standard, I do need at least some standard here.
Does everyone else use reusable bags at the store? Have you found any to hold up particularly well?