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Pt. 4: Microplastics: Threatened Waters, Threatened Food Chain

Keep Lee County Beautiful Tip of the Week

February 21, 2018
Norman Turiano for Keep Lee County Beautiful , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

In our first three articles, we explored what microplastics are, where they come from, and how we are threatened by their entry into the food chain, and global efforts to address the issue. Today, we will look at simple ways we can change our habits and have a large impact on the environment.

Changing Our Habits

As stated previously, microbeads in US products have been addressed, but are only estimated to be less than 4 percent of the estimated total level of the microplastics entering our food chain through the ocean, leaving us to ponder what we can do as environmental stewards to address this problem. We also previously learned that some of the main culprits are the types of plastics commonly found in plastic bottles, bags, and food storage containers. Now let's put this information together to develop some painless solutions that have the greatest impact on dealing with the issue.

Maybe you're not ready to break up with plastic altogether, but there are some easy changes you can make that will have a big impact in reducing the amount of disposable plastic in your life. Although recycling can help reduce the amount of garbage that ends up in landfills, waterways and ecosystems, only a few types of plastics can be recycled by most municipal governments. The fraction that does get recycled still requires a lot of energy and water which just isn't a good proposition when it comes to single-use items. Plastic garbage that ends up in landfills and oceans take hundreds of years to degrade, so today let's focus on ways we can REDUCE the amount of plastics we use. In our modern lives, plastic surrounds us and cutting it out can seem impossible to reduce, but by far one of the biggest and easiest impacts we can have is on one single item: Plastic Water Bottles.

Plastic Water Bottles

On average, the United States alone purchases and consumes over 50 billion plastic bottles per year. If that statistic isn't bad enough, only 40 percent of those 50 billion plastic bottles are recycled or put to better use. This means that 3 out of 5 plastic bottles purchased in the United States are thrown away.

Here are 3 simple ways to reduce your part in plastic water bottle waste:

1. Skip bottled water, and use a refillable bottle instead. Plastic bottles are one of the top five most common types of litter found on beaches. Since bottled water is much more expensive than tap water, you'll also save money doing this, avoid the possible hazards of plastic toxins leaching into your beverage, and since many are insulated, you can ensure that it is always refreshing!

2. Bring a reusable mug when you order coffee. Stow it on your desk, purse, or car or bag so you have it on hand when you order or refill your drink. Again, an insulated one means you won't need to reheat it or drink it all at once!

3. Purchase an at-home water filter to keep in your refrigerator.

As always, the best rule to follow is first reduce, secondly reuse, and finally recycle.

This sustainability tip is courtesy of Keep Lee County Beautiful Inc. For more information, visit, email, or call (239) 334-3488.

- By Norman Turiano for Keep Lee County Beautiful



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