This site is to chronicle my journey to reducing plastics in my life and home. It is also a countdown to my voyage on eXXpedition Leg 13: Vanuatu, Oceania to Cairns, Australia June 5th to June 19th, 2020. I want to challenge myself, my family, and my community to reduce plastic in their life as I prepare for the voyage. When I return, I know I will be enlightened and I intend to use all the knowledge I have gained to educate and inspire my community.
My husband, Jerry and I raised 3 incredible children and a few cats; (L-R) Madeline, Zane (holding Salvador), and Sophie. They inspire me every day and are my true motivation for this journey because their future is impacted by our choices.
My other motivations
I want to make sure others, not just my family, are educated about our individual and collective impact on the earth through the purchase and use of plastic. Many Nebraskans may be unaware of how our activities directly impact ocean plastic pollution and our own groundwater pollution (Ogallala Aquifer pictured below on the right). If you see all the tributaries through the Great Plains feeding into the Missouri and Mississippi rivers to the Gulf of Mexico, it isn’t hard to realize how our waste flows to the ocean. This is also a large area of the United States that has recently experienced major flooding (pictured below left) and I believe that these communities are starting to understand the personal impact of global warming. I have seen a gradual change in people wanting to learn more about helping future generations and I know the experience of this voyage will help to educate others.
I rely on Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC) for much of the science, education, and news. PPC is a growing global alliance of more than 750 organizations, businesses, and thought leaders in 60 countries working toward a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impact on humans, animals, waterways, the ocean, and the environment.
“China implemented the National Sword policy at the beginning of 2018 to protect their environment and develop their own domestic recycling capacity by restricting imports of waste. Since exporting plastic waste is a convenient way for the United States (U.S.) and other industrialized countries to count plastic waste as “recycled” and avoid disposal costs and impacts at home, there has been in a significant increase of plastic waste shipments to other countries instead of China. Unfortunately, most of our plastic waste is still shipped to countries that are not equipped to safely and securely manage it.” – Jan Dell (from Plastic Pollution Coalition link here)
These exports and no infrastructure for waste management of plastics in these counties have caused “plastic emitting rivers”.
eXXpedition voyages will cover the Arctic, the Galapagos Islands, the South Pacific islands and central ocean areas (gyres) where plastic accumulates because of circulating currents . There are five major gyres: the North and South Pacific Subtropical Gyres, the North and South Atlantic Subtropical Gyres, and the Indian Ocean Subtropical Gyre.
The environmental and health effects of plastic pollution are well-documented
From Plastic Pollution Coalition website “Plastic & Health: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet, authored by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Earthworks, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF), IPEN, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.), University of Exeter, and UPSTREAM, brings together research that exposes the distinct toxic risks plastic poses to human health at every stage of the plastic lifecycle, from extraction of fossil fuels, to consumer use, to disposal and beyond.”
Here are a few facts pulled for this 2019 report:
At every stage of its lifecycle, plastic poses distinct risks to human health, arising from both exposure to plastic particles themselves and associated chemicals. People worldwide are exposed at multiple stages of this lifecycle.
- Extraction and transportation of fossil feedstocks for plastic, which releases an array of toxic substances into the air and water, including those with known health impacts like cancer, neurotoxicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, and impairment of the immune system;
- Refining and production of plastic resins and additives, which releases carcinogenic and other highly toxic substances into the air, with effects including impairment of the nervous system, reproductive and developmental problems, cancer, leukemia, and genetic impacts like low birth weight;
- Consumer products and packaging, which can lead to ingestion and/or inhalation of microplastic particles and hundreds of toxic substances;
- Plastic waste management, especially “waste-to-energy” and other forms of incineration, releases toxic substances including heavy metals such as lead and mercury, acid gases and particulate matter, which can enter air, water, and soil causing both direct and indirect health risks for workers and nearby communities;
- Fragmenting and microplastics, which enter the human body directly and lead to an array of health impacts (including inflammation, genotoxicity, oxidative stress, apoptosis, and necrosis) that are linked to negative health outcomes ranging from cardiovascular disease to cancer and autoimmune conditions;
- Cascading exposure as plastic degrades, which further leach toxic chemicals concentrated in plastic into the environment and human bodies; and
- Ongoing environmental exposures as plastic contaminates and accumulates in food chains through agricultural soils, terrestrial and aquatic food chains, and the water supply, creating new opportunities for human exposure.
My Instagram page @ban_voyage is meant for you to follow my personal journey. Plastic itself has a journey. This petroleum-based polymer gave affordable alternatives to coveted tortoise shell combs, ivory billiard balls, shellac form the Lac Beetle (please read “Plastic: a Toxic Love Story” by Susan Freinkel 2011). If I were living in the early 1900s, I would have celebrated these synthetic options! Kerosene may have saved the whales…right? But little did we know how toxic plastics were….
Plastic exists, it’s prolific, it’s ubiquitous, and it’s NEVER going away. Now what do we do since we know it is not good for us and the environment?
In my blog, I want to spotlight local shops, people, restaurants, organizations, and non-profits trying to reduce their plastic use. This part of my journey is to educate myself on the effect plastics have and perhaps turn focus on what is a viable, affordable alternative. All I can do as I educate my self is focus on the reduction in use and the recycling.
Still not sure why is plastic harmful? click the link below
My goal is to thoughtfully purchase items that have non-plastic alternatives for the rest of my life, but I realize there are many products that do not have alternatives like my contact solution bottle, my contacts, pill bottles…. Most of these things are put under a medical or “safety” category and this makes sense. I cannot improve domestic recycling programs, but I know I can reduce my plastic use and help others do the same.
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