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Possumhaw: Why I'm giving up plastic straws


Shannon Bardwell



"The home should be a sanctuary. We ... have the right, if not the duty, and certainly the power, to bring positive change to the world through our daily decisions and actions."  


Bea Johnson, author of "Zero Waste Home"  




My good friend, we'll call him Richard, caught up with me at church. "Girl," he said, "did you see this issue of National Geographic? It's about all that plastic ending up in the ocean. I think you should write something about it, but you have to give the magazine back. I have every issue I ever got." 


Richard's my friend and he calls me "girl," so it'd be hard to refuse him. Plus, Richard's the one who taught me about recycling. Now I recycle and compost. 


I took the magazine to the doctor's office where I'd have a chance to read it. The pictures are heartbreaking -- a stork in a landfill, his body surrounded completely in plastic wrap, a loggerhead turtle ensnared in a fisherman's plastic netting, a seahorse clutching a cotton swab.  


Natasha Daly wrote that a biologist used pliers to withdraw a plastic straw from a sea turtle's nostril while the turtle writhed in agony and bled profusely. The eight-minute YouTube video had over 20 million views, "even though it's so hard to watch," she said.  


Elizabeth Royte wrote, "Scientists have found microplastics in 114 aquatic species, and more than half of those end up on our dinner plates. Now they are trying to determine what that means for human health. 


"The good news is that most microplastics studied by scientists seem to remain in the guts of fish and do not move to the muscle tissue," the parts we eat.  


OK, you get the idea. There are plenty of good things about plastics, but we've got to stop throwing them on the ground, into the landfill, and into the rivers. Remember the ole message in a bottle? Remember how far bottles can go? One internet article told of a bottle making its way from New Jersey to France. There are articles about bottles with messages over 25 years old.  


Plastic will disintegrate and break down, but it doesn't go away. The National Geographic article stated that more than 448 million tons of plastic is produced every year, and most is disposable with a use-life of minutes, like single-use items, like a straw. 


So, I look around the house and I'm depressed about all the plastic, even though I've made subtle changes like taking reusable bags to the grocery, using glass containers, decanters and a glass water bottle. For the occasional soft drink, I could switch to cans. Where appropriate, I refuse plastic bags, and the ones I do get, I take to the library for book sales.  


The National Geographic article gave suggestions: Give up plastic bags, skip straws, pass up plastic bottles, avoid plastic packaging, recycle what you can, and don't litter.  


I asked Sam what he saw floating on the river. He said, "Freezers, refrigerators, Styrofoam coolers, all kinds of bottles." You know litter doesn't go away unless someone picks it up. 


A webstore,, offers all kinds of earth-friendly products. If everybody did a little bit, it could be a whole lot.  



Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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