I’m confused by the abundant life and abundant plastic pollution here. It’s easy to slip into a fantasy that a sort of balance has been achieved on Midway Atoll. Birds nesting amidst plastic cigarette lighters, bottle caps, toys, umpteen bits and pieces of plastic; turtles pulling up on the beach to rest among plastic buoys and ghost nets and fuel containers; seals frolicking under the pier with discarded shampoo bottles – all of it getting along, or so it seems from a cartoon view. But then you begin to encounter the decaying bodies of albatross, almost all of them containing some amount of plastic, and some completely choked with it that there’s no mystery how this bird died.
How can I possibly continue to contribute to the stream of plastic into our waterways and oceans after seeing the albatross stuffed with plastic? Matches, people. Glass, metal. Re-use! Forget recycling, it’s not happening, and when it’s plastic it’s called down-cycling, anyway. What happens when we are up to our eyeballs in fleece and carpet and plastic decking?
I will go home a changed person after this trip. I’ve been an uber-recycler for most of my adult life. But now I can see that recycling is not the answer. We just need to stop making so much plastic. From here forward, my own consumption of it, especially disposables, will be under a high-power microscope. I’ll be considering every way in which I use plastic in my life, examining my wasteful habits more deeply, and asking myself what’s really important – a quick, disposable convenience or something with enduring value? It’s a good lesson for me on how to use stuff, and also how to enrich my life.
Consider joining the discussion about plastics on our Facebook group by clicking on the Discussion tab.
~Victoria Sloan Jordan