Day after day we use single-use plastic bags—a material used for only seconds that lasts in the environment forever. What happens to them after they leave our sight?
The LULAC Hoggie Council helped to organize, with
cooperation from the Texas Coastal Bend Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, an event last Wednesday that featured the documentary, “Bag It the Movie: Is Your Life Too Plastic?”
“I guarantee you that after tonight, you will be a convert,” said John Adams, representative from the Surfrider organization. “I’ve watched the film four times now and it’s really gripping.”
The film, which started out as a simple documentary about plastic bags, evolved into a much wider investigation into how our world deals with plastic and its effects on waterways, oceans, and even our bodies.
“When you throw out trash,” said Veronica Jurado, LULAC service chair and psychology/music major, ”it builds up underground. Plastic stays forever and that’s why we have to get rid of it now.”
Students that attended contributed many plastic bags and the LULAC council members organized them for recycling.
So we go back to the question—where do those plastic bags go after they leave our sight?
“Our bushes, rivers, everywhere,” said one Ireland native in the film. Ireland was one of the first countries to put a fee on plastic bags and it reduced use by over 90 percent.
The point is, is that there is no away to just get rid of them; the plastic that we use for seconds at a time has become an environmental burden that threatens the lives of countless creatures on our planet.
“We need to not be selfish for the moment,” said one woman in the documentary, “and think about the future.”
An important thing to keep in mind is that it’s not just these thin plastic bags wasting away our planet; bottles, cups, and even cans are building up in not only our landfills, but our streets.
The film discovered many surprising statistics about how much trash we throw away—for instance, about two million plastic bottles are consumed in the U.S. every five minutes and less than 25 percent of them are recycled.
“We’re using one drop of these resources for an item used in a day,” said one environmental expert in the film. “And that one drop took about 700 years to make.”
A joke was made in the documentary that our landfills are soon to become our own version of the pyramids, but it’s sad to say that it’s not entirely untrue—the average American alone contributes 800 pounds of packaging waste to landfills per year.
So where does recycling come into play? You may look at your bottle and see that chasing arrow and think it is recyclable, but that arrow is there only to make us think that way.
“Recycling makes me feel better inside,” said Amanda Cavazos, bio-medical science major here at AMK. “Not enough people recycle and it makes me mad.”
According to an expert in the film, only a few of those items can be turned into recycled materials. The rest gets dumped in landfills or ends up in our oceans, where over six million pieces of liter end up in just one day.
“There’s more plastic than plankton,” a fisherman joked in the film.
These plastic debris are affecting over 260 marine animal species; the fish eat the particles and take in chemicals then we catch and eat these fish, unintentionally putting those same harmful chemicals into our own bodies.
As stated in the film, there are approximately 100,000 marine animals dying each year because of the filth surrounding their habitats.
“Think of it like this,” said a San Diego Surfrider representative in the film, “each morning, your breakfast is a bowl of half cereal and half plastic balls.”
One has to wonder where it all stops—what will the world be like for our children?
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world,” said Maragaret Mead, U.S. anthropologist. “Indeed, it is the only that ever has.”
As college students, there are a lot of ways to help the environment, and most of them are probably simpler than you think.
First, cut back on single-use plastic bags—buy the ones in the grocery store that are re-usable or simply refuse one if you barely have any items.
Second, don’t drink bottled water—buy your own jug or aluminum bottle and constantly re-fill it; you’d be surprised at the number of chemicals that go in to making a simple plastic water bottle that are actually harmful.
And third, know that you don’t need to buy everything you see—stuff builds up after a while and all that space is something you can’t afford to have less of.
“Think about how your grandparents lived,” said Jeb Berrier, star of the film, “they lived their lives with a lot less plastic and they were just as happy.”
We may not be able to completely reverse the effects we’ve caused on the planet already, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do our best to help more from happening.
By: Kristina Canales