For some reason I feel compelled to pick up litter when I’m out walking. It’s odd really. I don’t always feel the need to do it in my own home. And if I were to hazard a guess I would say plastic bags are the trash item I pick up the most often outdoors. Junk mail is the trash I pick up most often in my house. But that’s a rant for another day.
When it comes to litter outdoors, plastic bottles are a close second to plastic bags. On the bright side, the bags give me something to carry all the plastic bottles home in. How convenient!
Actually it makes me a little cranky. I can’t tell you how often I’ve gotten fed up with picking up trash and decided to quit. Then I walk by a plastic bag or the wind blows one by and it feels like a sign from God or the universe that picking up trash is my reason for being.
You can see why I might be a little preoccupied with litter in general and plastic in particular. According to the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, Connecticut, if we don’t change our plastic ways, there may be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. The article I read on the subject didn’t mention it, but I suspect there may be more plastic bags than people on land too.
I know how it happens. Rainwater and wind carry plastic trash out of road ditches into streams and rivers—if I don’t get to it first. Then streams and rivers carry it to the oceans. And that’s why I worry that the plastic bottle I didn’t pick up will soon be the catch of the day at an ocean-front restaurant.
I’m carrying on about this issue now because it’s Plastic Free July, when people around the world pledge to avoid buying single-use plastic items for a month. It’s not easy. Single use plastic is the dandelion of consumer society, except dandelions are prettier and you can eat them.
And speaking of eating, July is also Picnic Month. If you’re planning on observing it, stop by and I’ll give you some of my plastic cutlery for your picnic. Also some dandelions.
I’ve saved every plastic knife, fork and spoon I’ve received at fast-food restaurants since the invention of the spork. And I’d be happy to share them.
Naturally I also use canvas bags—when I remember to take them to the store. And when I forget them, I stuff my purchases into my pockets and purse and haul the rest out in my arms while carrying the receipt in my teeth so I won’t be accused of shoplifting.
I carry a stainless-steel mug everywhere I go so I won’t have to buy beverages in plastic bottles. And I’ve been using the same straw since I got it at a fast-food restaurant in 1998. I think the cleaning brush for reusable straws is the greatest invention since, well, the straw.
I’ve even been known to remove plastic bottles from other people’s trash and take them home to my recycling bin. I have to be sneaky about it because people don’t appreciate it as much as you’d think they would.
Of course, I do all of this year-round, not just in July. Plastic Free July is just the beginning. It won’t do much good if, come August 1, we stock up on plastic everything. I dream of a day when stores are filled with barrels of ketchup, cooking oil and shampoo. We’ll walk in with our refillable jugs and say, “fill ‘er up.”
Until then, I’m trying to convince everyone I know to observe Plastic Free July. Then maybe I won’t have to pick up another plastic bag until August 1.
Dorothy Rosby is the author of I Didn’t Know You Could Make Birthday Cake from Scratch: Parenting Blunders from Cradle to Empty Nest and other books. Contact her at www.dorothyrosby.com/contact.