This year’s Blog Action Day is focused on water. (see petition)While there are several issues surrounding water, from illnesses that dirty water causes in the developing world to pollution from oil spills, what thing that personally frustrates me is seeing plastic litter in water. It’s persistent, noticeable, bothersome to people and harmful to ecosystems. It is even more frustrating to think of the energy wasted on making these plastic products, which are petroleum-based, of course, before they end up as physical pollutants.

Save the Bay, a pioneering environmental protection organization,  has been releasing a yearly look at the worst locations for trash pollution around the San Francisco Bay. Their 2010 Bay Trash Hot Spots, lists 225 polluted shoreline areas and creeks around the Bay that are clogged with plastic debris.

Plastic is not biodegradable, but it physically degrades from UV exposure. So, in the ocean, a lot of plastic pollutants are tiny little bits that are hard to see, but perfect for animals to eat. I first heard about this watching one of the videos from the Plastiki voyage which studied the Pacific Gyre. You can check out this very cool infographic from the Plastiki folks that shows a bit more about plastic distribution in the ocean.

A lot of municipalities have experimented with banning the use of plastic bags, and there’s a growing movement towards that in the Bay Area. I don’t think the efficacy of such measures has really been studied. I feel like it could be a false feeling of having made an effort. What is the greatest source of plastic out there; plastic shopping bags or industrial nurdle spills?

Regardless of its validity in pollution prevention, reducing the use of plastic bags is certainly a step in the right direction. The statistics are shocking. From Save the Bay: “Amazingly, Californians use approximately 19 billion plastic bags every year. But here is the kicker: the average use time of a plastic bag is only 12 minutes!” And the baggers at my local supermarket wonder why I don’t want a single loaf of bread in two plastic bags!

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