Unbeknownst to many of us, there is a swirling stew of plastic trash between our beautiful California coast and Hawaii. It was discovered in the late 90’s and it contains pretty much every type of plastic item you can imagine. It’s all there including, cigarette lighters, pens, water bottles, flip-flops, razors, tooth brushes and, of course, the ubiquitous plastic bag.
You can’t see where all this plastic trash collects from our coast. You’d have to sail hundreds of miles to the North Pacific Gyre and even then you would only see a portion of it because, in addition to being hundreds of miles wide, it is also deep.
In fact, there is so much plastic debris in all of the world’s oceans that plastic can be found in most of the fish that we eat. Scientists who study the effect of plastic particles on marine life call this new, man-made, ecosystem the “plastisphere”. Sounds sci-fi but it is a very real and relatively new phenomenon.
Most of the plastic pollution in the ocean finds it’s way there from the land. In other words, it comes from us guys. (A good reason to pick up a piece of trash once in a while instead of walking by it.)
On January 1, 2014, Los Angeles became one of the biggest cities in the country to ban free plastic bags in our stores. Estimates indicate that we, just here in LA, were deploying over 200,000 bags per hour. Now we must bring our own bags when we shop or pay ten cents per bag to purchase them.
This new ban does not fix the plastic pollution crisis but it is a small victory for the ocean. Yay ocean!  So when you forget your reusable bags in the car, like I constantly do, think about going back to get them. If each of us can reduce our use of plastic just a little, it’s a start.
I understand how hard it is to kick the plastic bag habit from personal experience. They are SO perfect for carrying the groceries but once discarded they take years to biodegrade. Use for 10 minutes, biodegrade for 10 years…you get the point.
Overall, I think this new ban will help us use fewer plastic bags. As a result fewer plastic bags will find their way into the ocean. My plan is to REDUCE usage, REUSE whenever possible and then properly RECYCLE the rest.

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Comment by Marlene Bauman on January 16, 2014 at 7:21am

Thank you for reminding folks about that swirling bag of junk in our ocean! I started buying and collecting the cloth and vinyl reusable bags when they first became available. I have enough in my car that even if I forget to take some back to the garage after a grocery trip, I still have ones ready to use when I go to the store again. They are WASHABLE! And there weren't even any plastic and maybe not any paper bags, back in the 60's etc, yet people managed to take groceries home, put trash in the dumpsters, clean up after their dogs. If this generation is BETTER than prior ones, then be progressive and innovative, and do a better job of making this planet clean and healthy!

Comment by Heather Caine on January 12, 2014 at 8:07pm

I heard somewhere that Americans recycle approximately 5% of plastic bags, which is an appalling figure.  More plastic bag recycling bins should be provided, Ralphs supermarket is good at this.

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