During my summer abroad, I saw the result of the waste from San José making its way down the Tarcolos River (see picture above). A year ago, this beach was littered in primarily, if not entirely, of plastics. There was so much waste in this beach a group of 10 (made up of my peers, faculty, and other volunteers) could not even make a dent in the trash waste spending an entire day cleaning it up.
Recently I have adopted the trend, like other environmental supporters, in banning plastic straws from every day use. With this new choice some of my close friends and family members have joined me in this effort to reduce plastic waste streams in our garbage. Some friends have completely eradicated straws from their life where others have purchased paper or reusable straws.
Straws are just one of my ways to cut down on plastics. Plastic reduction is great for the environment. For example Americans, alone “use 500 million straws daily.”
Plastic straws make up a tiny fraction of the “[s]even billion [of plastics] tons is stuck on Earth as garbage in landfills, recycled trash or pollution in the environment, including deep oceans.” Often these plastics end up in animals’ digestive systems as they mistake it for food causing health problems or death.
Plastics reduction is not only good for protecting the environmental but can be great for business. In coastal regions, like the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica means more space for business, tourism, and livelihood (such as fishing). In post-industrialized areas such as San Francisco it can also be good for business. Environmental Attorney Robin Purchia reports at Pagan Idol using compostable paper straws “provides for its patroons while reducing waste, protecting the environment and lowering its bills.” A bartender at the bar stated they saved $900 a month on their recycling bill.
However reducing your use of plastics alone cannot combat the excessive amount of plastics in the waste stream. “A small amount [of trash] is eliminated in incinerators.” Waste management companies along with companies using plastic products can work together in closing the circuit for packaging. For example the company with the product can ensure their product is recyclable, reusable, or biodegradable as the waste management company ensures the ability to recycle the waste.
Consumers alone cannot eradicate dangerous plastics in the economy or eco-sphere. With more efficient ways of disposing of waste or biodegradable plastics, ecosystems could be protected in tandem of thriving businesses. The potential of closed circuits waste systems has the potential for circular economies to thrive with the health of the environment.