In the United States alone, 2 million plastic bottles are used every 5 minutes. That’s 288 million bottles each day, JUST in the United States. Of those 288 million bottles we use each day, 120,548 end up in the ocean or landfills every minute! Although using disposable plastic containers seems convenient, we are paying for this laziness.

In the Pacific Ocean, the currents direct the plastic in a way that collects it in one massive bunch. This plastic clump is twice the size of the state of Texas. That’s literally plastic as far as the eye can see. Bottom line, we need to reduce our use of plastic beverage containers.

Fish and birds are dying at frightening rates because they are eating plastic. Even when the plastic “breaks down”, it remains as tiny plastic particles that resemble plankton. That means that no matter what size the animal, they will eat plastic, even the ones who eat plankton. A whale washed up on the coast of Washington and plastic bags were found in its stomach. Nothing is immune to our waste.

You are contributing to the problem

Every American is guilty of using non-recyclable plastics. It seems we have no choice. In actuality, we do. Most of the non-recyclable plastics we use can be avoided by choosing a different item. If the consumer stops buying from producers who use certain types of plastics, the producer will be forced to change the materials they use. Some items are impossible to substitute, and buying them is understandable. When given a choice, however, it is best to use your purchasing power to urge the producer to stop using non-recyclable plastic in their packaging.

What can you do?

Use a reusable bottle and filtered water. Nalgene, Sigg, Kleen Kanteen, there are tons of great options out there that are affordable. Not only do you reduce plastic waste but you are consuming better water. Did you know that bottled water is less regulated than tap water? That’s right, bottled water can actually be dirtier than tap water. So much for water snobs who think their Evian is superior to your tap water. Lesson learned, drink your water out of a reusable bottle so you’re not explaining to your grandchildren why the ocean is ruined because you were too lazy to stop throwing away plastic.

Environmental Ethics

Many people associate the environmental movement as a bunch of nature loving, tree huggers, who want to save the polar bears and whales. While the environmental movement is definitely geared towards preserving nature, an often overlooked aspect of the movement is the ethical responsibility that we as humans have.

When a nuclear power plant needs to dispose of its waste, or a new landfill is looking for a location, the “NIMBY” (Not in my back yard) movement is always prevalent. Nobody wants to live near a toxic environment, especially one which pollutes the air and water we use every day. By default, people and countries which have the most money tend to have the most political clout.

Here in the Bay Area, there are plenty of obvious examples of how poor communities are left with the burden of undesirable sites. The infamous Chevron oil refinery located in Richmond, CA is well known for the negative health effects it causes on the surrounding community. The atmospheric pollution which is emitted by Chevron’s refinery has caused cancer and other lung ailments, yet the nearby community does not have the power to change it. If this exact scenario was happening in Beverly Hills, killing rich people, you can bet it would be fought against and the refinery would no longer exist.

In the Western World, we use countless high tech electrical devices that become obsolete within a couple years. Most Americans have had numerous cell phones within the past decade, usually at least one every 2 years when the contract is up. It is easy to forget where the old phones go because we simply throw them away or bring them to an electronic waste recycler. It turns out that even some of the “legitimate” E-waste recycling companies send everything to undeveloped countries. Once they are dumped on these underdeveloped countries, people who have no other alternative form of income are forced to submit their bodies to toxic chemicals while they remove and heat off the precious metals found in the electronics.

Who cares?

Well, hopefully you care. As someone who has the ability to make choices as to what they buy and use, it is our moral responsibility to minimize the suffering we cause to other human beings. It is possible to live your life ignoring the fact that our possessions affect other people, but if you have any moral conscience, at least give it some consideration.