Creation Care Pagosa provides tips for reducing plastic pollution


Dr. Terry Root, renowned scientist and Nobel Prize recipient, came to Pagosa Springs on April 25 to give a talk to an enthusiastic crowd about “Planet vs. Plastics: Innocent Wildlife and Plastic Don’t Mix.”

Plastic and microplastics have become a real threat to the health of humans and wildlife. 

According to Root’s research, we have created more than 5 billion tons of plastic since it became widely available in the 1950s. All of it is still on the planet, because it never biodegrades. In landfills, it just disintegrates into smaller and smaller pieces — microplastics and nanoplastics — that wind up in our food and water supply.

“The plastics industry has all of you duped,” she said. “Plastic really isn’t recyclable, despite our best efforts to do so. Only 9 percent of all recycled plastic is actually used again.

“Most of the rest ends up in our oceans and landfills.

“Microplastics are present in the meat, veggies, fruit and grains we eat. In fact, the average American ingests the equivalent of one credit card’s worth of plastic each week, and inhales a similar amount. Autopsies have shown that microplastics are present in most of our organs, lungs, blood, brains, placentas and even mother’s milk.”

Recent research shows that microplastics have become a major component in the plaque that builds up in arteries, and thus a major contributor to heart attack, strokes and premature death.

So, what can we do? Here is Root’s recommendation of 14 key things we all must do to reverse the dangerous trend of plastics polluting our environment and food supply:

1. Stop using single-use plastic shopping bags. Worldwide, humans use 5,600 billion plastic bags per year, and they are causing significant pollution in oceans, beaches and waterways. Take reusable cloth bags when you shop or paper if you must.

2. Stop using plastic produce bags for fresh vegetables at the grocery store. Take cloth drawstring produce bags with you, or just put your fresh fruit and vegetables directly into your shopping bags.

3. Stop buying plastic water bottles. Carry your own metal reusable water bottle.

4. Stop buying plastic detergent bottles. Buy detergent in a cardboard box or, better yet, use the small, dry detergent sheets. They work great.

5. Buy juice and milk in glass or paper packaging.

6. Tell your waiter when you sit down at a restaurant that you do not want a plastic straw.

7. Don’t use plastic wrap or single-use Ziploc-style plastic bags. Use glass or silicone storage containers for leftovers.

8. Stop using plastic garbage bags. .

9. Absolutely no Styrofoam. Take your own container from home as a “doggie bag” at restaurants.

10. Don’t use microfiber dryer sheets. Some brands make a microfiber-free dryer sheet, or use wool dryer balls.

11. Buy clothing and bedding made from natural fibers like wool, linen, bamboo, hemp or cotton. Thirty-five percent of the microfibers found in our oceans is sloughed off during the laundry process from clothing made with plastic-based materials such as polyester, spandex, nylon or rayon, according to the research done by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Also, don’t do laundry so often. Fleece clothing is particularly guilty. In an alarming study recently released by the University of California at Santa Barbara, researchers found that, on average, synthetic fleece jackets release 1.7 grams of microfibers each wash.

12. Remember to protect wildlife. Cut open any circular plastic device — usually used to hold together soda or beer cans. These have caused irreparable harm to birds and sea turtles.

13. Avoid foods that have a known tendency to contain microplastics. One big culprit is sea salt — more than 90 percent of samples tested in a lab had significant amounts. Table salt, too. The only brand found that was free of microplastics was the Redmond brand, made in Utah. Avoid ocean filter-feeders like clams, oysters, mussels and shrimp.

Other offenders are nylon tea bags, bottled water, canned beer made with municipal water (not filtered) and fresh or frozen “ready meals.”

14. Do not reheat food in plastic containers, which can leach into your food. Use glass or ceramic containers to reheat in the microwave.

Root’s talk was hosted by the Community United Methodist Church and sponsored by Creation Care Pagosa, a Christ-centered organization for environmental stewardship and community education. 

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Creation Care Pagosa is a faith-based environmental stewardship organization open to everyone in the community. We meet on the fourth Thursday of every month (except for March). 

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