Here is a shocking statistic. Americans throw away more than 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags EVERY YEAR and only .6 percent are recycled per the WorldWatch Institute. Five of these bags floated by my car window, blown by the wind, the other day on a trip of only five miles. Having previously seen the pictures and information on Reusable Bags.com and the information put out by WorldWatch Institute on how plastic bags can literally float for miles and end up in trees, waterways, etc. it didn't really truly sink in until I saw these bags float past my windshield. I have started seeing them everywhere now and knew I had to do something.
Here are some of the basic facts as reported by Reusable Bags.com.
Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals die every year from eating discarded plastic bags mistaken for food. Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade—breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways and entering the food web when animals accidentally ingest. As part of Clean Up Australia Day, in one day nearly 500,000 plastic bags were collected. Windblown plastic bags are so prevalent in Africa that a cottage industry has sprung up harvesting bags and using them to weave hats, and even bags. According to the BBC, one group harvests 30,000 per month. According to David Barnes, a marine scientist with the British Antarctic Survey, plastic bags have gone "from being rare in the late 80s and early 90s to being almost everywhere from Spitsbergen 78° North [latitude] to Falklands 51° South [latitude].
Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal cleanups, according to the nonprofit Center for Marine Conservation.
(Source: Reusable Bags.com)
After I watched these bags go by I began to think up solutions to the problem. I was even tempted for a moment to jump out of the car and chase the blasted things but since I am unable to run as fast as the wind I decided it was not the best option. I thought about this for quite some time that day and have come up with an idea that could, if successful, make a large dent in reducing the stray bag population nationwide.
I call it the PUP Brigade. PUP stands for Pick Up Plastic and I'll leave you to your own devices (dictionary) to figure out the brigade part. The PUP Brigade, when in full bloom will help eradicate a considerable amount of the plastic littering our planet. However I cannot do it alone. I need your help.
Here's how it works. Just click here to go to the PUP Brigade site and enroll. There is a welcome statement that will give you a few more details and enrolling doesn't obligate you to anything except noting your desire to pick up plastic when you see it. If you want to be more actively involved you can be an area coordinator. More on that later. If you are simply interested in grabbing and recycling every bit of plastic you see and perhaps weighing it and reporting how many ounces or pounds you have pulled out of the environment and recycled then simply enroll in the group and get started all on your own. By enrolling in the group you will have a chance to converse with others all across the nation who share your same interest in eliminating plastic waste as well as encourage others to Pick Up Plastic. I also envision PUP Parties with large groups, organized by a local coordinator, picking up plastic in a public park, beach, square, road or wherever plastic is a problem. I have established a Google Calendar so these events can be listed in a central location.
If you are interested in being a Coordinator simply e-mail me and I will let you know the details and other contact information. Coordinators will be needed in every city across the nation and would be responsible for finding a location that needs cleanup, then notifying the media as well as performing other general organizational duties such as contacting service groups, schools, scout troops, etc. It would be volunteer work but should only be a few hours every month to accomplish. How much time you spend would be up to you and duties could be shared among several individuals in a large city. As a coordinator you would have access to the calendar to post dates for events and would notify the media of the dates the event would occur. You would not need to be present at every event.
Rather than reinvent the wheel I have set this up for now as a Google group with a web accessible calendar. As time goes by I will move this to a dedicated website but for now this will suffice and there will be no delay waiting for web development.
Please, if you are reading this blog, and have an interest in eradicating plastic from our streets, parks, beaches and waterways...sign up now. If you can be a coordinator simply e-mail me and we can work out the details.
I have mentioned Reusable Bags.com several times and as a nod to the recent Fake Plastic Fish post about reusable bags and Reusable Bags.com I suggest a review of her August 2,2007 post before rushing out and buying reusable bags. She has some very valid points. Ones I hadn't previously thought about.
Please join PUP today even if you can only get out and pick up bags and plastic on your daily travels. The life you save may be a turtle, a seabird or perhaps even that of the the whole planet. I need your help.