Movie preview changes view on plastic, waste

Every now and then I have the privilege of having a totally humbling and eye-opening experience. It changes my perspective on life and makes me realize how tiny my scope on the world is.

There I sat, drinking my “30% less plastic” Aquafina bottle, feeling pretty eco-friendly in my environmental issues class. The professor visits a site that I use regularly like it’s a search engine, Youtube. We watch a trailer for the movie, “Midway,” based on an important World World II battle spot.

As the trailer progresses, I find that while WWII has ended decades ago, the island Midway, Atol, still is home to very unsettling images.

If you were every forced to read “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in English class like I was, you would know all about the bird called the albatross. This bird is native almost exclusively to Midway and is dying there in massive numbers.

The unsettling images that I mentioned before are of hundreds of birds dead in heaps and piles of waste that has washed up onto shore. If you opened their stomachs you would find them full of cigarette lighters and bottle caps like the one I have on my 30 percent less plastic Aquafina. If they don’t choke on them first, they die from starving because they can’t pass the plastic through their bodies.

The albatross live and die among these giant piles of anything from PVC pipe to computer monitors to plastic bottles. As of 2010 there were zero residents; back in 1970, 2,220 people lived on the island.

Midway gets its namesake because it’s the midway point between the United States and Asia. It’s a hard fact to swallow that our carelessness is washing up on its shores and killing animals.

The amount of plastic humans use is out of control. Each American is responsible for about 185 pounds of plastic, which is a pretty light material so that’s a lot.

I tend to think of myself as a very forward thinking, progressive person. I feel like I’m a more liberal Earth-lover and I was under the impression that when you recycled your plastic, it was pretty much like you never used the plastic in the first place. As it turns out, recycling is the least effective aspect of pollution conservation.

The most important step is to reduce the amount of plastic we use. Worldwide, almost 300 plastic bags are used each minute. When you’re just buying a gallon of milk, tell the cashier to keep the bag or you can take a reusable bag to the store.

The second most effective step of conservation is reusing. Instead of buying a case of water for $5, buy a cute reusable water bottle so you can fill it up as you need it and then you use less plastic.

When you’ve exhausted those options, recycle your plastic. There’s a bin in every building and residence hall so you don’t have to go far out of your way.

Watching that video brought it home to me. Those piles of plastic waste and dead albatross were horrifying. Pollution is still a very relevant problem that requires the attention of all plastic-using people.

Do we have the courage to face the realities of our time?


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