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Two resolutions for the whole year

By Valerie Yule - posted Monday, 9 January 2017


Two New Year's Resolutions - to keep all the year: never let a plastic bag reach the sea, for fragments to be swallowed by sea-life; and never use a plastic bag once when something recyclable will do instead.

Remember that all your plastic eventually goes to the sea!

We look at television to see the havoc that mankind is wreaking on the earth and in the sea. It is easy to think that this mankind is something other than ourselves. But do not think that we ourselves contribute nothing towards the world's troubles, as we walk up the street with a plastic bag in each hand.

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To look at the circulating plastic currents in the ocean and connect it with our shopping methods - how ridiculous is that!

But most things that happen just now seem ridiculous . Our world is fit for Donald Trump.

And in this case a ridiculous sequence of events can be discerned. We take our shopping home in plastic bags . Why not in boxes or bags of string or paper or woven? Well, we say, we need the plastic bags to put our rubbish in, to put inside our rubbish bins.  Hint – you could put your squashy rubbish in worm farms and compost bins and then it need not be wasted in land fill. Then we do not need plastic bags to put it all in land fill.)

People go past my gates with a plastic bag in each hand and things that are in more plastic bags inside them. Some of the plastic bags goes in landfill. Some of the plastic bags escape that fate, and go blowing down the streets and gutters, until they end up in storm drains that go to the sea.

And the many hundreds of storm drains spew out plastic bags into the rivers and the rivers end up at the sea, and the millions of plastic bags spill on to the beaches and into the bags and oceans. Then the hungry sea creatures see the plastic bags and the bits of plastic bags as suitable for them to nibble. Little bits of plastic bags get littler and littler.

We may think the big plastic bags are bad enough; the sea creatures and sea birds swallow them and they clutter their food passages. They look awful in the pictures of their innards shown by concerned scientists.

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But worse still are the little pieces of plastic. These go down even to microscopic size.

No sea creature or seabird today can keep its insides free of the tiny pieces. They not only eat them; they breathe them in. Then they die, and add to the messes that the seas are becoming. The bigger sea creatures and sea birds eat the smaller living creatures, and with them their diet of plastic which was formerly plastic bags.

Places in the oceans are now recognized suckers-in of plastic in great circular currents. Once upon a time, shops feared being lost in the Sargasso Sea tangled in seaweed, left to swirl around until they rotted. Now there are new vortexes which boats and ships of all sizes must beware of, marked on the new atlases. BEWARE OF THE PLASTIC BAG! And the passengers on the cruise liners can look over the rails at what previous passengers never saw – the pudding-mixes of plastic that have caught the dolphins that used to play around the ships' bows. The passengers get the spray on their faces – but they do not get the bits of plastic, as even then their ships are throwing them over the sterns with the rest of the ships' rubbish.

Circle round, circle round and round, the plastic bags getting smaller and smaller as the circling currents get wider and wider. Why have armaments to kill the enemies? These only enrich the arms makers. We can choke our enemies with plastic bags. Is this to say how the world ends? Not with a bang, not with a whimper, but caught in plastic bags?

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About the Author

Valerie Yule is a writer and researcher on imagination, literacy and social issues.

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