The short answer to that is, it can’t.
We all know the world is drowning in plastic.
However, opening the conversation about a speck of plastic really can help save the world.
This is how one tiny speck of plastic, smaller than my little fingernail, is doing just that.
MORE THAN JUST A SPECK OF PLASTIC – THE BREAKDOWN
The first fully synthetic plastic, Bakelite, was invented in 1907, however, it wasn’t until the 1950s and 60s that plastic became widely popular.
Today it is one of the biggest environmental concerns this planet faces.
It is estimated it can take up to 1000 years for some plastics to decompose in landfills. So it’s a problem that is not going away any time soon.
Of course, that’s only an estimate. As plastic had been around for a relatively short period of time it is not possible to know for sure how long it takes to decompose.
The estimates are made using respirometry tests where a solid waste sample, such as a newspaper or plastic bag, is placed in a container with microbe-rich compost. The mix is then aerated. During the following days, microorganisms assimilate the sample and produce carbon dioxide. It’s the levels of carbon dioxide that indicate the rate of break down.
When the sample is a plastic bag, there is no carbon dioxide or decomposition.
While plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade when exposed to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight. But this could take centuries.
THE PLASTIC PERIL
Meanwhile, it is estimated 100,000 marine mammals and one million seabirds are killed each year as a result of plastic that ends up in the sea.
It’s lightweight composition, one of the qualities that has made it so popular for shopping bags, means it can easily find its way into water systems through land run off when it’s raining or by a slight movement of wind.
Many marine mammals get caught up in plastic bags and die trying to free themselves.
Others try to eat it, mistaking it for food.
Plastic in an animal’s gut can prevent food digestion and can lead to a very slow and painful death.
When a sea creature ingests the plastic, should it be lucky enough not to choke, it will carry that plastic in its digestive system until it dies.
Once it dies and then decomposes, the plastic is free to continue its menace on other creatures.
Turtles, small fish and seabirds often suffocate from ingesting tiny scraps of plastic when they get lodged in their throats.
THAT TINY SPECK OF PLASTIC
And that’s where my tiny speck of plastic comes in.
I had taken one of the Goddesses on a shopping expedition, followed by a picnic near the river.
We were inspecting her purchases when she pulled a tag off a toy and the tiny speck of plastic that was used to attach it.
That speck of plastic was so small I’m sure I wouldn’t have seen it without my glasses.
The Goddess suggested she leave it on the park bench as it was so tiny it could not really be considered littering.
That’s when the conversation began.
I explained to her how easily that tiny speck of plastic could be blown or washed into the river. Maybe it would even make it to the ocean before some tiny sea creature or bird tried to eat it.
It takes only a speck of plastic, smaller than your little fingernail, to kill a turtle.
I’m so happy about the worldwide movement to ban plastic bags and the conscientious efforts of environmentalists to make us aware of the destructiveness of the substance.
But seriously, it is everywhere. Not just bags and bottles, but also straws, balloons, even the little plastic tube that holds the end of shoelaces together.
If you read about my coffee pod penance you’ll know that I’m not into the kind of self-sacrifice that results in resentment and judgement.
I celebrate our freedom to make choices to fit our circumstances at any given time.
MORE THAN JUST A SPECK OF PLASTIC
So, I’m not suggesting we get rid of every tiny speck of plastic – yet. Let’s start by tackling the plastic bag issue.
However, I won’t pass up an opportunity to bring awareness to the fact that even the tiniest things have a huge ability to make a lasting impact. And not just plastic.
The littlest thought and deed can have an everlasting effect on others and the environment.
Each and every one of us is making a difference every moment of every day. We do this with our deeds, our words, and even our thoughts. It is up to us to decide what kind of difference we want to make.
Consider the butterfly effect which theorises that one small change can dramatically change your life or that of others.
That phenomenon theorises that a butterfly flapping its wings in one place can cause catastrophic cyclones in other parts of the world.
In a world filled with seemingly insurmountable problems, this is such an empowering thought. Especially for little children.
What difference can that tiny speck of plastic make if allowed to find its way into our water systems?
What difference can an ordinary conversation about a tiny speck of plastic make to the people involved? And then to other people they interact with? Not to mention the animal lives possibly saved and the flow-on effect from that.
That inconsequential smile, or kind word, or tiny speck of plastic not mindlessly thrown away, can save lives. And in doing so, possibly save the world.
Wishing you a gleeful week, Tamuria.
Candess M. CampbellApril 28, 2018 at 5:35 am
Thanks for starting this conversation Tamuria! Some simple ways I’ll contribute are listed below.
1. Carry my own bag to the grocery store.
2. Shut water off when I am not using it (while brushing teeth, doing dishes, etc.)
3. Buy in larger quantities to save packaging. (Rice, etc.)
4. Take my own coffee cup if I buy at a coffee stand.
I hope others join in making small steps in their own life. This is only a beginning!
tamuriaApril 29, 2018 at 5:00 pm
I love your small steps to do your bit for our planet, Candess. Together and with consistency, they add up to a lot.
Tandy R ElisalaMay 4, 2018 at 5:16 am
Tami, I wish every person on the planet read this article. It’s powerful and moving. It’s also telling of where our planet is headed if we don’t reverse things now. Things we do to help the planet include:
1. Buying in bulk where possible.
2. Recycling daily.
3. Using a glass water bottle to fill waters.
4. Taking our own grocery bags to the store.
5. Turning off water wherever possible.
6. Turning off lights.
Every little bit helps. My heart goes out to the animals impacted by our carelessness.
tamuriaMay 4, 2018 at 11:40 am
All fabulous ideas, Tandy. So true that every little bit helps.
Alene GeedMay 7, 2018 at 1:20 am
We can each make a difference just by being cognizant of our own use of plastic. I carry reusable bags in the car and have my groceries packed in them. I know it is a small step but if everyone did the same we could eliminate plastic bags. I love your story of the tiny piece of plastic. So sad that the marine wildlife is suffering
tamuriaMay 8, 2018 at 7:25 am
We sure can make a difference, Alene. I also have my shopping bags in the car and am happy that two of the major supermarkets in this country are phasing out single-use plastic bags. There is so much plastic though and those same supermarkets seem to have the need to wrap everything they can, even fruit and veggies, in plastic. So annoying. It’s up to us to make responsible choices and be aware of our plastic use.
ClaudetteMay 10, 2018 at 6:32 am
Tami, thanks for reminding us that even one speck of plastic can devastate so much of our world. We are all connected (BTW -there’s a great TED Radio Show on how we are all connected – https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510298/ted-radio-hour ) in one way or another and when there is imbalance in one area, we all pay for it in the long run, unless we do something to restore balance.
tamuriaMay 10, 2018 at 7:58 am
I just finished (next week’s) post that mentions how we are all connected, Claudette. I hope we can help our kids to truly understand this as there seem to be so many adults who don’t.