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Waterspot: The low cost of a free ride, part 14 billion

I am a conservative, but please don’t quit reading if you are not. What I mean by conservative is that I conserve the best of what has gone before me. I am neither Republican nor Democrat and basically despised by both. But since this is not a political column, I will move on.

I hesitate to call it “fake,” but TV news never seems to run dry concerning things we the people can do nothing about, fires us up with nasty tales on whatever they oppose, or blabs on about items of no significance to our everyday lives, but recently told a story worth hearing. It was about the ocean of plastic chocking our seas nearly to death.

I had recently been informed that the average American was discarding nearly six pounds of trash each day (times that by 300 million, if you’re brave enough) and that 14 billion pounds of garbage, much of which is plastic, was being dumped into our oceans annually.

This aforementioned TV story was different, however. It stated that a recent study had found plastic waste a half mile deep in the Pacific Ocean. These toxic substances, which will outlive us all, present an increasing problem not only for sea life, but also for those of us who spend most of our time on land.

Believing the colorful waste to be food, fish often eat and digest broken bits of plastic cups, bottle tops and bags. If you eat fish, you are ingesting unknown quantities of a petroleum-based carcinogen. As they say, “You are not just what you eat, but what you eat eats.”

In an effort to stem the tide of inorganic compounds making their ugly presence known on our shores, many of us have vowed to never walk over a piece of plastic. As such, I, and others I see walking the shore, will often appear with arms full of junk, like some installation artist collecting discards for some bizarre piece.

And, while the effort is laudable, we are sick of cleaning up messes we didn’t create. Then again, maybe we did. Could that wrapper I just picked up have been the covering for the chocolate bar I ate two weeks ago?
Our family has long been in the habit of reusing plastic bags for cat waste.

We try to remember to bring our reusable grocery bags whenever we shop. Still, we all figured we could do more. In so doing, we recently instigated what we call “Plastic Free Fridays,” where nothing made of plastic comes into the house.

The plastic in the stores can stay in the stores. One day my wife Tracy took things a bit further by bringing home a dozen or so reusable bags for fruits and vegetables. Since then these handy, breathable bags have decreased our plastic consumption by over 50%. I am stoked to report that today, which is only Monday, I did a full shop at Sprouts and returned home without a single bit of plastic in my possession.

Encouraging words came over the news wires with the report that Trader Joe’s was planning to reduce its plastic use by over 1 million pounds a year. I was also told of Target’s efforts to clean up their act.

Since we as surfers use the ocean regularly, I suggest we reward both Trader Joe’s and Target for their efforts in helping eliminate plastic from our favorite playground.

Click here to purchase your own reusable bags for items sold in bulk.

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