I’m a retired over-the-road truck driver. Many years ago when I hit the road for the first time, I noticed something that you’ve surely seen if you’ve ever happened upon a site where drivers sleep overnight in their vehicles — discarded plastic bottles containing a yellowish liquid. It is what you think it is.
Like you, I felt disgust, but putting aside our opinions of anyone who would leave that for someone else to clean up, consider what is more disgusting — the bottle or its contents.
Most will answer “contents,” but that would be misplaced disgust. Ultimately, bottle and contents will separate. One will be virtually harmless, possibly even beneficial. The plastic bottle, though, will be quite the opposite and will be with us in one form or another for a millennium.
In time, exposure to sunlight, water or other elements will cause it to break down into micro-plastics, particles so tiny that most are invisible without magnification. Inevitably, those particles go where nature takes them – into the soil, into our water supply, and into our food.
But is it harmful? Scientific studies show that there are numerous correlations between the chemical components of plastic and health issues that include chromosomal abnormalities, diabetes, neurological malfunctioning, obesity, cancer, hormonal malfunctioning and cardiovascular damage.
So, perhaps disgust involving plastic bottles should be directed toward ourselves, a society that seems to value convenience over what should be common sense.
In any consideration of whether or not to use a plastic product, I think we should ask first if it is necessary.
Second, what, if any, is the alternative? In the case of the bottle, what is it that causes people to spend money for something that will soon be discarded? Why don’t we use refillable metal containers?
How about plastic shopping bags? Why don’t we use and reuse cloth or mesh bags that will last years and cause no harm?
The answers should disturb us. Those questions and similar questions align with the focus of Earth Day 2018 – ending plastic pollution.
For those unfamiliar with Earth Day, it began in 1970 on April 22. It has been celebrated and observed on that date in every year since. The mission of the Earth Day Network (from its website) is “to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement world wide.”
I urge everyone to visit the Earth Day website, earthday.org/earthday. Even if you think of yourself as “in tune” with environmentalism, it’s likely that you’ll learn something that you can put into practice and also share with others.
Locally, on Saturday, April 21, an Earth Day event will take place on the grounds of Princeton Public Library, 698 E. Peru St. It is sponsored by Voices from the Prairie, a grass-roots citizens’ movement. Vendors, information booths, exhibits and entertainment will be part of it. Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with presentations beginning at 10:30.
Larry J. Smith