Plastic Pollution Awareness Day

Reusable water bottles or tumblers are a great solution to disposable plastic bottles.

Reusable water bottles or tumblers are a great solution to disposable plastic bottles.

This plastic debris washed up on a beach most likely originated on land. Plastic does not decompose like organic materials leaving plastic in the ocean to slowly breakdown over a span of years.

This plastic debris washed up on a beach most likely originated on land. Plastic does not decompose like organic materials leaving plastic in the ocean to slowly breakdown over a span of years.

Hannah Testa worked with Senator Williams to proclaim February 15, 2017 Plastic Pollution Awareness Day in Georgia.

Hannah Testa worked with Senator Williams to proclaim February 15, 2017 Plastic Pollution Awareness Day in Georgia.

This morning, environmental activist Hannah Testa, age 14, and State Senator Michael Williams, will proclaim Plastic Pollution Awareness Day in Georgia at the State Capitol. As a resident of Georgia, I am very pleased to know that plastic pollution is getting attention at the state level thanks to the hard work of this young teen from Forsyth County. Testa, who founded the organization Hannah4Change (www.hannah4change.org), worked with Senator Williams, to develop a resolution to be passed that helps to educate Georgians about the growing health crisis of plastic pollution.

 

“The aim is to make residents aware of the impact that plastic pollution has on our environment,” states Testa. “Not only does plastic end up on our streets, streams, and oceans, but also affects 600 species of marine life, through ingestion and entanglement, often killing them. Scientists are finding plastic in our food chain too.”

 

Testa’s goal is to make citizens and businesses aware that simple shifts in our daily lives can greatly reduce the state’s plastic footprint. Hannah’s call to action is for Georgians to reduce consumption of single-use plastic products such as plastic bottles, straws, and bags on at least one day out of the year and perhaps all year long. Even though I’m not going to the capitol today, I am participating in Plastic Pollution Awareness Day by not using single-use, disposable plastic products today.

 

You can join this effort too with a few simple actions. For example, take a reusable water bottle or tumbler with you to avoid throwing away plastic water bottles. During lunch, refuse to use plastic drinking straws which are thrown away after a single use. And, while shopping you can opt to use reusable shopping bags instead of disposables.

 

Senator Williams said, “I’m very impressed by Hannah’s efforts, especially by someone of her age.  By educating the public, we can help people to make informed decisions.” 

 

“Hannah is a light of hope and is a true example to never underestimate a young person’s capability to evoke change. It’s been a pleasure to watch her blossom and grow in passion and beauty inside and out”, states Angela Sun, award-winning sportscaster, film maker, producer, writer, and environmentalist behind the documentary Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.   

 

Charles Orgbon III, CEO of Greening Forward, adds “Disposable plastics take a few minutes to make, a few seconds to use, and a lifetime to degrade in our landfills. Hannah's event will help us understand what we can do to create more sustainable solutions.”

 

According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition (www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org), “Plastic is a durable material made to last forever, yet 33 percent of it is used once and then discarded.” It’s estimated that only 8 percent of the 30 million tons of plastic a year generated by Americans is actually making it to the recycling bin. Other plastics are thrown away and end up in the landfill, or become litter that often ends up in local waterways. It’s estimated that 80 percent of all marine debris found in the ocean is land based, and that 80 to 90 percent of that debris is made from plastic.

 

While refusing to use a plastic drinking straw at a restaurant seems insignificant, consider that you will be just one out of thousands of people that have already made the commitment to refuse straws. According to team at The Last Plastic Straw (www.thelastplasticstraw.org) 500 million straws are used and discarded every day in the United States alone. That’s 175 billion a year filtering into landfills and littering the oceans. That’s enough straws to wrap around the Earth’s circumference two and a half times a day.

 

If you can’t imagine a drink without a straw try an alternative like paper straws, or even stainless steel and glass straws which are reusable. Actually, you’ll be happy to know that most plastic products have a non-plastic counterpart. And, you can buy products without plastic wrap. Some examples include stainless steel mugs for coffee, reusable cutlery to replace plastic disposables, fresh bread in paper bags not plastic, glass jars for storing pasta and grains, and even wooden hair brushes. 

 

If you’re inspired to reduce your plastic foot-print check out Beth Terry, author of Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too, and self-proclaimed recovering plastic addict, who provides guidance to those overwhelmed by the amount of plastic in their life at www.myplasticfreelife.com. Her top two ways to reduce plastic waste include giving up bottled water, and using reusable shopping bags.

An Upcycled Valentine’s Day

Use recyclable items from your home’s bin as a starting point for sweet Valentine’s Day crafts. Start with scrap paper and draw or paint your own unique artwork.

Use recyclable items from your home’s bin as a starting point for sweet Valentine’s Day crafts. Start with scrap paper and draw or paint your own unique artwork.

Before you know it, Valentine’s Day is going to be here! Are you ready? This particularly romantic holiday has a reputation for being super expensive. Thankfully, it really doesn’t have to be when you add a little bit of do-it-yourself magic. Here are some ideas for an upcycled Valentine’s Day that will have you looking at your recyclables in a whole new way.

 

Children and adults can make unique greeting cards with just some paper scraps and paint. Take some paper scraps and paperboard boxes from your recycling bin then cut them into a rectangular shape to make the base for a card. Use your paints, crayons, or markers to make hearts or another creative design. Glue on extra heart shapes, ribbon, glitter, or any other type of material that may match your card.

 

Sometimes choosing a fun greeting like, “Owl be yours!” can help you design on what to paint. With this greeting you can add an owl. The phrase, “Bee mine!” can have a cute bee with hearts on its antenna. “You’re the apple of my eye!” can be a painting of an apple or two with a smile. Or “You’re the sweetest!” could be a drawing of a cupcake.

 

If you’re not good at drawing hearts, you can make a heart shaped stamp from a paperboard tube to decorate your cards. You’ll need at least one toilet paper roll tube, or a paper towel tube cut in half, red paint, and a surface to paint on. Lay the tube flat on the table so the openings are on the sides. Gently flatten the roll to create a crease on each side. One crease is the bottom v-shaped portion of the heart.  Hold the tube with one of the openings facing you and push in one of the creases. This will create the top of the heart with the shape of two rounded humps.  If desired tape the side of the tube to keep the heart shape in place.

 

Pour a thin layer of red paint in a scrap paper box or tin, and then dip one end of the paperboard tube. Quickly press the heart shape onto a piece of scrap paper then lift to reveal the outline of a red heart. Set aside to dry before adding additional paint. To add more variety to the colors, you could add white paint to the red and make pink hearts. Since the paperboard tube is large it’s easy for toddlers to hold allowing them to make cards for grandparents and other relatives. Make the heart stamps extra special by painting them on a blank white canvas instead of paper.

 

Sometimes a special message on a print of one of your favorite couples or family photo can double as a card and a keepsake. Photos are less likely than paper cards to be thrown away and may end up proudly on display in a frame made from recycled materials or in a family album. Make your photo memorable by including the phrase, “I love you” in another language. For example, in Spanish you would say, “Te amo.”  And, in Hawaiian “Aloha wau ia oi.”

 

A cute gift you can make with scrap paper from your bin is an I.O.U. booklet. The booklet can be about five by three inches and tied together on one end.  On each piece of paper write down something you will do for your loved one.  For example, wash dishes, detail the car, or kiss them a hundred times.  Five to ten items will do.   

 

Fill a glass jar with Valentine’s Day candy for your sweetheart. You’ll need a small glass jar with a lid, candy, cupcake liners and bakers twine with a red and white color scheme. To get started clean the glass jar and lid with warm soapy water. Remove all labels and dry thoroughly. Fill the jar with candy then seal with the lid. Finally, cover the lid with a cupcake liner, then secure the liner with twine. Instead of a paper liner you could use a coffee filter, fabric, or other paper.

Show Some Love, Pick Up Litter

Keep Dalton-Whitfield Beautiful invites you to “Love it, don’t trash it!” this month by picking up litter.

Keep Dalton-Whitfield Beautiful invites you to “Love it, don’t trash it!” this month by picking up litter.

Show our community some love this month by picking up litter while you’re walking outside. 

Show our community some love this month by picking up litter while you’re walking outside. 

February is a great month to show some love to our community. Sure, you can donate something, generously tip your waiter, or surprise a friend with an old-fashioned Valentine’s day card. But, here’s something you can do to show some love to the whole community – pick up litter!

 

Litter, trash in the wrong place, is an eye-sore that hurts property values and community pride. That crinkled up wrapper on the side walk, the drink cup with no lid stuck in a storm drain, and the rain soaked paper bag from a fast food joint really should be in a trash can. Once trash is loose and out in the open it’s very difficult to clean it all up.

 

While litter may be out of sight and out of mind for the individual who threw the trash there – it’s still there long after it’s forgotten by the owner. Next thing you know you’re outside walking your dog stepping over half-empty cans, smelling cigarette butts, and rancid fast food leftovers. Or worse yet, fending off a stray animal trying to get the last bits of a half-eaten apple.

 

Why people litter is a complicated issue with no easy answer. Lack of convenience, hard to find trash receptacles, bad habits, and even just plain laziness can all contribute to the accumulation of litter in public spaces like roads and parks. Sometimes litter is unintentional too, like when a wrapper flies out of an open car window.

 

But in the end, litter is still trash in the wrong place that needs to be picked up by someone. Picking up litter is not as bad as it sounds, especially if you have the right tools. All you need is a small bag (plastic or reusable work fine) to carry with you while you’re on a walk. When you spot the stray can or paper take a moment to pick it up and put it in your bag. Once your bag is full take the litter to the next available trash can, or it none is available, take it home to dispose of in your garbage cart.

 

When you pick up litter, and someone sees you do it, you may inspire them to do the same. Or at least, next time they’re about to throw something on the ground they’ll think twice. And, it’s good to know that litter attracts more litter. But, when a place looks clean and cared for the amount of litter decreases and even disappears completely.

 

In an effort to encourage residents to reduce the amount of litter in the community Keep Dalton-Whitfield Beautiful is highlighting its educational campaign called “Love it, don’t trash it!” this month. Visit www.keepdaltonwhitfieldbeautiful.org and like the Keep Dalton-Whitfield Beautiful page on Facebook to learn about the negative impacts of litter, and the action steps you can take to prevent it. If you pick up litter this month take a photo and share it on your favorite social media site with the hashtag #livelitterfree.

 

Here are a few of the tips you can implement starting in your own home where you’ll have most control over what happens to your trash. Get started by finding out which materials you can recycle and which need to be disposed of. Set up indoor recycling bins and trash cans in different rooms of your home. Periodically collect the recyclables and waste from inside your home and place them in the trash cart or recycling bin for collection outdoors.

 

Show your neighborhood some love too by taking just ten minutes to pick up any trash you may find along the sidewalk. Carry a plastic shopping bag with you to pick up litter as you enjoy a walk with your pet. If you have children, challenge them to find ten littered items and pick those up. Reward the ones who find ten items the fastest, or start a scavenger hunt for different types of litter.

 

When taking your family to a local park carry out what you bring in. Food wrappers, drink bottles, left over food, and diapers can all be collected and taken home. Or deposit them all at the next available trash bin. If the trash bin at the park is overflowing, take your trash home for proper disposal instead of adding to the pile and causing more litter on the ground. Show your favorite park some love by picking up litter, even if it’s not yours, and throwing it in a trash bin.

Adventures of a Plastic Bottle

Follow the adventures of a plastic bottle in this book for elementary aged students. Readers learn about the lifecycle of a product that they frequently use. 

Follow the adventures of a plastic bottle in this book for elementary aged students. Readers learn about the lifecycle of a product that they frequently use. 

I just finished reading one of the most kid friendly books which explains how plastic recycling works. It’s “The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle: A Story About Recycling” by Alison Inches, and illustrated by Pete Whitehead. On the cover is a plastic water bottle waving from its spot on a conveyor belt. While appropriate for elementary aged kids, it’s also a great read for grown-ups. It begs the question, “Have you ever thought about where your plastic bottle came from?”

 

Plastic bottles are so abundant and easy to find that we end up taking them for granted most of the time. Perhaps you’ve never wondered what adventures your water bottle had been on long before it reached your hands. In the book, the story begins deep under the ocean in a thick, oozing blob of crude oil that’s been there for thousands of years.

 

All seven types of plastic commonly used to manufacture new products begin as crude oil that is collected then sent to an oil refinery. The process can refine crude oil into fuel, oil, gas, and other types of products – including the plastic pellets used to make plastic bottles. Those pellets are then shipped to manufacturers that heat up the pellets and mold them into the shape of a bottle.

 

Depending on the facility, the bottles are then sent to a bottling company which sanitizes, labels, and fills the bottles with water. The new plastic water bottles are then shipped to stores where the product is sold to consumers. Shipping may involve traveling over hundreds of miles by air or tractor trailer. Once at the store the product is unloaded by workers who restock shelves. All of that happens behind the scenes!

 

Finally, a customer buys the water bottle, consumes the water, and hopefully recycles it so it can be remade into a new product. If the plastic bottle goes in the trash, it’s a very sad moment because the bottle will be buried and lost with no hope to be used again in the future. All of that time, effort – crude oil extraction, refinement, transportation – is lost after just one use. Plastic water bottles that are recycled can be remanufactured into new things, like fleece for ski jackets or sleeping bags, yarn for carpet, toys, clothing, furniture, and more. Talk about an adventure-filled life!

 

According to the book “Make Garbage Great: The Terracycle Family Guide to a Zero-Waste Lifestyle” by Tom Szaky and Albe Zakes, about 802,000 tons of #1 plastic bottles (such as those for water and soda) were recycled in the U.S. in 2011. But, during that same year more than twice that amount, about 1.9 million tons, were thrown out. This amount doesn’t include the other types of plastic, like #2 for milk and laundry detergent jugs. Plainly stated, out of all the bottles and jugs being manufactured, the vast majority are not making it to the recycling bin.

 

This is a shame when you consider that a 60-watt lightbulb could be powered for six hours with the energy saved by recycling on plastic milk jug. And considering that four pounds of petroleum are required to make two pounds of plastic #2 for milk jugs – not recycling the jug is like throwing oil down the drain and wasting it.

 

To reduce that number of things you’re wasting you may decide to switch from single-use disposable products to reusable products. Replacing a disposable water bottle with a reusable one that you can refill could save the equivalent of 1,500 water bottles per person per year. Replacing a disposable fork in your lunch box with a reusable stainless steel version can save over 250 forks from going to the landfill.

 

Next time you use a plastic water bottle, or any other product, take a moment to think about where it came from. Taking a step back will help determine how you use and dispose of the product. What was the raw material? How was it extracted? Was it refined, transported, manufactured, transported, stocked? How much energy and water did it take to manufacture? What adventures did this product experience before it got to me? 

Encouraging Others to Be More Eco-Friendly

The Recycle Across America online label store (recycleacrossamerica.org) offers a wide variety of ready-made, full color recycling bin labels for use in offices, schools, and other public places. Placing the right signage on recycling bins is one way to encourage others to recycle too.

The Recycle Across America online label store (recycleacrossamerica.org) offers a wide variety of ready-made, full color recycling bin labels for use in offices, schools, and other public places. Placing the right signage on recycling bins is one way to encourage others to recycle too.

If you’re reading this column every week you’re probably one of our local super recyclers who take the time to recycle absolutely everything possible. Seeing a lonely plastic soda bottle in a trash can instead of the breakroom recycling bin sends chills down your spine. Witnessing a co-worker place a perfectly good recyclable soup can in the trash instead of rinsing it out and taking it home to recycle it at the curb makes your face turn red hot with anger.

 

You’re probably thinking, “Don’t they realize that their throwing away resources that could be used again?” Yes, recyclable materials that actually get recycled are used to make new products in place of valuable virgin or raw materials. It’s a practice that is environmentally friendly, and in most cases, even economically friendly. Throwing recyclables in the trash is just plain wasteful. 

 

But, before confronting a co-worker, family member, or friend in a huff about their questionable waste management practices, consider other ways to encourage them to be eco-friendlier. Sure, you want to convince them to recycle, turn the lights off, and carpool more – but being pushy about it will lead to resentment and in the end turn people off to the idea of being eco-friendly in the first place.

 

I’m an advocate of leading by example. For example, you pack lunch in reusable containers and use reusable cutlery every workday. At the end of your lunch break you have nothing to throw away while your co-workers spend several extra minutes throwing things away. At this point you don’t need to say anything, don’t offer advice, don’t say your way is better – just be a good consistent example.

 

Eventually one of them notices you have extra time to enjoy lunch and asks you for some advice. Now you can explain (in a non-judgmental way) that you just love packing a zero-waste lunch because it saves you time, and it’s even good for the environment. Perhaps you’ll inspire them to try a few reusable items of their own next time.

 

The same goes for recycling. If you have a plastic soda bottle with you always take the few extra steps to get the bottle to the recycling bin. Pick up a stray bottle or two that is in the wrong place and carry it to the recycling bin. Eventually someone will observe what you’re doing and follow suit, or at least ask how you know where to put what product. This is where you can step in with your company’s recycling guide, or point out the recycling signage at the bin.

 

Since recycling and doing eco-friendly things takes extra work, especially for those who have never done so, it’s a good idea to tell people why they should do certain things. Perhaps the company you work at has a green initiative where the whole company is encouraged to recycle. Or, you can share some recycling facts like, “recycling one plastic bottle saves the energy equivalent of powering a 60-watt light bulb for three hours.” The why behind the action is another way to encourage greener actions.

 

Sometimes people don’t recycle or do other eco-friendly things because it’s just too confusing or not convenient. One way you can help is to make recycling more accessible. In an office setting you may have recycling bins available, but no signage indicating what can be recycled. This results in no recyclables, or even the wrong kind of recyclables, being placed in the bin.

 

Remove uncertainty by placing a simple sign at each recycling bin that lists or shows a picture of what should be recycled. Some companies recycle only paper and cardboard, while others have more options and can recycle plastic bottles too. If you work for a large organization these recycling signs may already exists. Identify the right person that can provide signage for you. Or visit www.recycleacrossamerica.org to order pre-designed full color signage.

 

Recycling bins and trash cans are buddies. They can be placed next to each other to make it a convenient one-stop shop for properly disposing of waste. The most important thing is the label or signage so the right types of products are placed in the right bin. Ultimately signs with a photo of the product that can be placed in a particular bin are most effective.

 

As you’re encouraging others to be eco-friendlier remember to always be a good example. And, when someone asks for advice don’t be a nag about it. Empower them to do the right things on their own. Ultimately we can’t force people to do what we want. But, we can strive to encourage and inspire for a better, greener future.