Swimming in Plastic

by Cindy Ann Bowers


That’s me, Cindy Ann Bowers, in the photo, with a balloon I fished out of the Chesapeake Bay. I hate balloons. I really hate when I find them floating in the water. To me, they’re a particularly noxious example of a single-use plastic item. Mention “single-use plastic” and most people think of shopping bags. Single-use plastics are so much more than shopping bags and beverage containers. They’re everywhere.


Single-use plastic has become one of mankind’s most enduring and harmful legacies. Plastic is filling our waterways, our oceans, and even our bodies. I’ve encountered plastic pollution floating in the water, on the beaches of the Atlantic seaboard, and in the Bahamas. One beach we visited on Black Point Island was so covered in the remains of beverage containers, detergent bottles, toys, and the many unidentifiable small parts of plastic things that the sand was barely visible. Seeing a beach full of plastic debris really brought home the enormity of this problem and made me re-think all the ways I use plastic.


While certainly useful for medical equipment to save lives, for example, most single-use plastic items aren’t really necessary. When I returned from the Bahamas, I started looking at every plastic product or container we used to see if I could use an alternative product or stop using that product altogether. We were able to cut back significantly on our consumption of plastic. We now use bamboo toothbrushes and dental floss, dry sheets of laundry detergent, bars of soap, lots of reusable bags, and food containers. There are also many things we just don’t buy, so we can avoid generating additional plastic trash; holiday decorations are one thing we’re living happily without.


However, cutting back on household use of plastic isn’t going to make much of a dent in the mountains of non-biodegrade trash. We also need to work with businesses to demand alternative containers and products. Here in WNC, Plastic-Free Hendo <https://www.plasticfreehendo.com/> is working to educate businesses and consumers on plastic reduction.


We can all take action to reduce plastic pollution. What can you do? (Please, at least don’t buy any more balloons…)


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