plastics have become a pollution and litter problem in the United
States and across the globe. Only about 9.5% of postconsumer plastic is
collected for recycling so much of the non-recycled plastic ends up in
the oceans, rivers, lakes, streams, along roadways or in landfills and
amount of plastic waste in the world’s oceans is staggering. According
to the Ocean Conservancy approximately 150 metric tons of plastic is
already floating in the oceans with an additional 8 million metric tons
of plastics expected each year.
of reducing single-use plastic items contend abandoned fishing lines
are a major source of ocean debris, and much of the remaining plastic
comes from Asia. Although discarded fishing lines are a considerable
problem, individuals have little control over this practice. As
individuals we can decide to reduce single-use plastics by opting for
re-usable bags, water bottles and by drinking beverages without straws.
it is true, Asian countries do significantly contribute to the plastic
debris breaking down into microplastics in the oceans, it should be
noted the contributing countries were not prepared, or equipped, to
handle massive amounts of plastic from single-use “throw-away” items
that their populations have become dependent on over the past several
number of countries in Asia now recognize single-use plastics as a
significant problem and are attempting to curb the flow of these
materials. For example, Taiwan has approved banning single-use plastic
cups, shopping bags and straws by 2030.
and cities around the world are also taking action to reduce single-use
plastic (see the articles and videos WEAL has posted on single-use
plastics). Kenya has implemented the toughest ban on plastic bags in the
world with fines up to $38,000 or prison sentences up to four years.
is difficult to blame Asia for ocean debris in the Caribbean, along the
Atlantic coast or in the Great Lakes. In the United States, and most
developed countries, litter is picked up by DPW’s, Adopt a Highway
groups (WEAL is one of them), organized cleanups along our rivers and
lakes, as well as local residents who devote time to picking up litter.
Just because we may not always see single-use plastic litter doesn’t
mean it doesn’t exist and is not entering local waterways.
How You Can Help Decide to choose sustainable alternatives and avoid single-use plastic items whenever possible.
you have to purchase a bottle of water when you are away put the cap on
and take it home to be recycled. If you are ordering a takeout meal to
bring home, ask not to have plastic cutlery included. Always keep a
few reusable bags in your car so you can avoid plastic bags and ask not
to have a straw whenever you order a beverage.
of plastic litter is a powerful deterrent and documents the problem.
WEAL is looking for photos of single-use plastic debris in Waukesha
County and around Lake Michigan to post on the WEAL website and Facebook
page. If you see single-use plastic debris, please take photo and
contact WEAL at www.weal.org. and provide the location, date, and if you want your name included with the photo or photos.
Resources and Single-Use Plastic Updates
has posted articles, videos and resources associated with single-use
plastics on the WEAL website. This information will be frequently
WEAL will also be adding a section on our website and Facebook page devoted specifically to WEAL’s upcoming “Skip the Straw” Initiative. Check the WEAL website at www.weal.org or WEAL’s Facebook page to stay informed and to get involved!