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Nothing Says Earth Day Like Recycled Plastics On Fire
Toxic Indiana Fire Highlights Our Huge Plastic Problem
I hate to be so doom and gloom in the lead up to Earth Day, but it’s important to see the world as it is right now. Also: every day is Earth Day.
We’ve got major problems that need solving, and I encourage everyone to get involved. It’s not about getting it perfect, but about each person asking, “How can I help?”
Last week, a fire broke out at a 14-acre former factory site where officials confirmed various types of plastics had been stored for recycling. The fire sending a huge black cloud of toxic smoke over Richmond, Indiana, a city of more than 35,000 people.
Yikes! I hate that this image is becoming a familiar one.
Officials said Friday that air monitors detected hydrogen cyanide, benzene, chlorine, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds in the ground-level smoke.
Thousands of local residents living within a half-mile of the plant were evacuated and ordered to shelter-in-place. City of Richmond officials lifted that order on Sunday.
Tests of debris samples from the blaze confirmed the presence of asbestos, according to the EPA, and the agency was working with professionals in Indiana and Ohio to remove the hazardous material.
The toxic flames burned for days. People’s lives were upended and their health put at risk. School classes were cancelled.
The health department has released a cleaning guide for anyone returning to their homes and A 24-7 helpline 765-973-9300 will remain open for anyone who needs further assistance.
The Associated Press reported that investigators found missing sprinklers and excessive plastics considered to be a fire hazard.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the EPA are continuing to monitor and sample air in the area. Local authorities are also working to minimize runoff that could impact local waterways.
Symptoms related to breathing smoke include repeated coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, palpitations, nausea, or lightheadedness, Richmond officials explained on a webpage.
In honor of Earth Day, let’s review some plastic facts.
Of course, we have to talk about all the plastics. Plastic waste is a HUGE problem. Single-use plastics are particularly detrimental.
We produce more than 380 million tons of plastic every year. Some reports indicate that up to 50 percent of that is for single-use purposes, used for just a few moments, but on the planet for at least several hundred years.
It’s estimated that more than 10 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year.
Less than 9 percent of all plastics get recycled.
We (everyone on the globe) use about 1.2 million plastic bottles per minute.
Americans purchase about 50 billion water bottles per year, averaging about 13 bottles per month for every person in the U.S. That means by using a reusable water bottle, you could save an average of 156 plastic bottles annually.
In the U.S., three-quarters of discarded plastic ends up in landfills or is just lost.
The rest is incinerated or recycled. Geyer says recycling helps but usually just delays its inevitable disposal. Moreover, more new plastic is made every year than is recycled.
When plastics end up in landfills, they aren’t harmless. They break down into tiny toxic particles that contaminate the soil and waterways and enter the food chain when animals accidentally ingest them.
Plastic pollution is now recognized as a hazard to public health and the human body.
Microplastics can cause damage to human cells at the levels known to be consumed by people via their food, according to a study by the Journal of Hazardous Materials.
Reduce your plastic consumption.
Plastic pollution is one of the most important environmental problems we face. We all contribute to this problem and must work to reduce, and ultimately end, plastic pollution.
Make a plan this Earth Day to reduce your plastic consumption using EARTHDAY.ORG’s plastic calculator.
This organization strives to end the use of single use plastics. They educate the public on how toxic plastic can be and informs on what everyone can do to eradicate plastic pollution.
Plastic Oceans strives to educate audiences about plastics in the recent news. This nonprofit organization aims to start discussion on the negative impacts of plastic pollution and the effect that this has on the oceans.
The Plastic Disclosure Project was launched by Ocean Recovery Alliance as a way to bring about large-scale prevention of plastic waste. This is an investor and multi-stakeholder driven program to encourage companies and other institutions to measure their plastic footprint and develop plastic management strategies to create a world where plastic adds value to businesses without negatively impacting the environment. This can be done on a global basis, without needing to change legislation, create bans, or impose taxes.
The Zero Waste International Alliance has been established to promote positive alternatives to landfill and incineration and to raise community awareness of the social and economic benefits to be gained when waste is regarded as a resource base upon which can be built both employment and business opportunity.
Rethink Plastic is an alliance of leading European NGOs with one common aim: a future that is free from plastic pollution. They represent hundreds of thousands of active groups, supporters, and citizens in every EU member state. They bring together policy and technical expertise from a variety of relevant fields and are part of the global break free from plastic movement, consisting of over 800 NGOs and millions of citizens worldwide.
#breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Watch their video:
Tips to refuse plastics
Plastic bags are one of the biggest sources of plastic pollution. Refusing the plastic shopping bags given away at retailers and grocery stores is easy. If you need a bag to carry your purchases, bring reusable canvas bags instead. And buy cloth or mesh bags to carry fresh produce to the cashier.
Take a little extra time while shopping and select products without plastic packaging. Always be sure to avoid or even boycott products that are excessively wrapped in plastic (for example fresh produce).
When you shop for clothes, avoid fabrics with plastic microfibers such as nylon and polyester. Or check ways to collect the fibers in your washing machine.
What’s your way of helping solve these problems for Earth Day? Let’s inspire one another in the comments below.