By Beth Warner
There is no “away” when we throw plastic away. Every piece of plastic created remains on our planet; it does not biodegrade, it breaks down. Some pieces turn into obnoxious tiny bits of microplastics and microplastics are here, there and everywhere. Plastic fluff goes down drains from polyester fabrics we wash. Hey, we like our fuzzy fleece! Sadly, microplastics, unlike other plastic trash, can’t be picked up, removed or recycled. Microplastics consistently contaminate our planet’s waters. Plankton mistakenly eat it, fish eat plankton, birds eat fish and so it goes. Microplastics travel up the food chain until eventually we eat it. That’s right. We all eat plastic. Perhaps consuming plastic contributes to cancers. Anyhow, it’s not good. Isn’t it time to stop flushing and forgetting microplastics?
Years ago, for a short time, at Shop ‘n’ Save grocery stores, “plastic” bags were made of cornstarch. Flimsy indeed, but cornstarch bags were biodegradable. Like many good ideas, they mysteriously disappeared, replaced by petroleum–based plastic bags, those horrible ones we cram into closets, drawers and magically think and pretend we’ll reuse. We don’t. They accumulate, clutter and some escape, fly, caught by treetops to flap miserably in the wind – weird flags for our planet, indeed. Island teacher Bonnie Norwood, students Ella Izenour, Caroline Musson, Charlotte Partin, Logan Wilbur and more kids worked to raise awareness to ban plastic bags on our island. Marina Garland at COA produced solid research eight years ago, revealing microplastics are in Frenchman Bay. Although we banned plastic bags, COVID-19 undid this victory (for sanitary reasons), but we can return to reusable shopping bags if we handle them, not store clerks.
When President Obama and his family visited Bar Harbor, water sold in Acadia National Park concessions was in paper cartons. Not perfect, but better than plastic bottles. Sadly, in 2017, the Department of Interior adhered to instructions from President Trump to promote and prioritize business in national parks. The paper cartons were replaced and water was again sold in plastic bottles.
Ten years ago, Annie Leonard produced a seven-minute video about bottled water. It is fun, friendly, informative and delightfully animated (youtube.com/watch?v=Se12y9hSOM0).
Many on MDI love our Mount Desert Spring Water where the Blues Brothers dance on the roof of their filling station. Any chance they could help convert to cartons, maybe with a Jake and Elwood logo? Better yet, let’s restore water fountains, turn the one at the Town Hill playground back on and create many sanitary filling stations for reusable bottles around the island (I’ve found six lost ones on trails).
We can begin to work now to help correct what has gone wrong with our planet, our nation, our state and our island. The plague and our environment are interconnected. Let’s work on water stations to leave a better legacy for our kids and grandkids as we continue borrowing Earth from them. We can focus on one green arrow in the recycling symbol: reduce. Let’s reduce the use of plastic water bottles. Let’s try.
Beth Warner resides in Salisbury Cove