Category Archives: Waste

The Energy Trail of a Drinking Straw

So what is wrong with straws, you may ask?straw

The better question, would be … what is great about them.

Aside from the fact that they are made from plastic and are intended for single use consumption … read on, and

find out how next time you are served a drink, you just might be compelled to forgo the straw!


A straw is a prepared tube used to suck a beverage out of a container. Historians theorize the first straws were cut from dried wheat shafts and they were named accordingly. With the advent of industrial age, methods were developed to mass produce straws by rolling elongated sheets of wax-coated paper into a cylindrical, hollow tubes. This was accomplished by coiling paraffin-coated paper around a rod-shaped form and then securing the paper with an adhesive. The entire straw was then coated with wax to further water-proof it. The wax coating was important since the straw was paper and would eventually absorb some of the liquid being sucked up it. Thus, inevitably these paper straws became soggy and useless. In the 1960s, paper was largely replaced by plastic which were becoming less expensive and increasingly more sophisticated. The explosion of plastic technology led to techniques to manufacture plastic straws via extrusion. Today, straws are made in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and functions.

Raw Materials

Straws are made from a formulated blend of plastic resin, colorants, and other additives.


Historically, straws have been made from paper but today polypropylene plastic is the material of choice. Polypropylene is a resin made by polymerizing, or stringing together, molecules of a propylene gas. When a very large number of these molecules are chemically hooked together they form this solid plastic material. Polypropylene was first developed in the mid-1950s and has many properties, which make it suitable for use in straw manufacturing. This resin is light-weight, has fair abrasion resistance, good dimensional stability, and good surface hardness. It typically does not experience problems with stress cracking and it offers excellent chemical resistance at higher temperatures. Most importantly for this application, it has good thermoplastic properties. This means it can be melted, formed into various shapes and, upon reheating, can be melted and molded again. Another key attribute of this plastic is that it is safe for contact with food and beverage. Polypropylene is approved for indirect contact with food and, in addition to drinking straws, is used to make many types of food packaging such as margarine and yogurt containers, cellophane-type wrapping, and various bottles and caps.


Colorants can be added to the plastic to give the straws an aesthetically pleasing appearance. However, in the United States, the colorants used must be chosen from a list of pigments approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for food contact. If the colorants are not food grade, they must be tested to make sure they will not leach out of the plastic and into the food or beverage. These pigments are typically supplied in powdered form, and a very small amount is required to impart bright colors. Through use of multiple colorants, multi-colored straws can be made.

Other additives

Additional materials are added to the plastic formula to control the physical properties of the finished straw. Plasticizers (materials which improve the flexibility of the polypropylene) may be added to keep the resin from cracking. Antioxidants are used to reduce harmful interactions between the plastic and the oxygen in the air. Other stabilizers include ultraviolet light filters, which shield the plastic from the effects of sunlight and prevent the radiation from adversely effecting the plastic. Finally, inert fillers may be added to increase the bulk density of the plastic. All these materials must meet appropriate FDA requirements.

Packaging materials

Straws are typically wrapped in paper sleeves for individual use or bulk packed in plastic pouches or cardboard boxes.

The Manufacturing

Straw manufacturing requires several steps. First, the plastic resin and other components are mixed together; the mixture is then extruded in a tube shape; the straw may under go subsequent specialized operations; and finally the straws are packaged for shipment.

Plastic compounding

  • The polypropylene resin must first be mixed with the plasticizers, colorants, antioxidants, stabilizers, and fillers. These materials, in powder form, are dumped into the hopper of an extrusion compounder that mixes, melts, and forms beads of the blended plastic. This machine can be thought of as a long, heated, motor driven meat grinder. The powders are mixed together and melted as they travel down the barrel of the extruder. Special feeder screws are used to push the powder along its path. The molten plastic mixture is squeezed out through a series of small holes at the other end of the extruder. The holes shape the plastic into thin strands about 0.125 inch (0.3175 cm) in diameter. One compounding method ejects these strands into cooling water where a series of rotating knives cut them into short pellets. The pellet shape is preferred for subsequent molding operations because pellets are easier to move than a fine powder. These pellets are then collected and dried; they may be further blended or coated with other additives before packaging. The finished plastic pellets are stored until they are ready to be molded into straws.

Straw extrusion

  • The pellets are transferred to another extrusion molder. The second extruder is fitted with a different type of die, which produces a hollow tube shape. The pellets are dumped in a hopper on one end of the machine and are forced through a long channel by a screw mechanism. This screw is turned in the barrel with power supplied by a motor operating through a gear reducer. As the screw rotates, it moves the resin down the barrel. As the resin travels down the heated channel, it melts and becomes more flowable. To ensure good movement and heat transfer, the screw fits within the barrel with only few thousands of an inch clearance. It is machined from a solid steel rod, and the surfaces almost touching the barrel are hardened to resist wear. By the time the resin reaches the end of the barrel, it is completely melted and can be easily forced out through the opening in the die.
  • The resin exits the die in a long string in the shape of a straw. It is then moved along by a piece of equipment known as a puller which helps maintain the shape of the straw as it is moved through the rest of the manufacturing process. In some processes, it is necessary to pull the straw through special sizing plates to better control the diameter. These plates are essentially metal sheets with holes drilled in them. Eventually, this elongated tube is directed through a cooling stage—usually a water bath. Some operations run the plastic over a chilled metal rod, called a mandrel, which freezes the internal dimension of the straw to that of the rod. Ultimately, the long tubes are cut to the proper length by a knife assembly.

Special operations

  • Straws with special design requirements may undergo additional processing. For example, so called “crazy” straws, which have a series of loops and turns, may be bent into shape using special molding equipment. Another type of straw with special manufacturing requirements is the “bendable” straw. This type of straw can bend in the middle and is made using a special device that creates a series of grooves that allow the straw to flex. These grooves can be crimped into the straws in a two step process. First, it is first necessary to “pick up” the straw so it can be manipulated. This can be accomplished by spreading the straws across a flat plate, which has slots cut in it. The straws will tend to roll into the slots and remain there. The slots are evenly spaced and are adjacent to a separate metal plate, which has a series of metal pins extending from it. The pins are aligned in a parallel fashion with the slots on the plate. Once the straws have come to rest in the slots, the pins can be easily inserted into the straws. The straws can then be easily lifted up and moved around in any orientation by simply manipulating the plate that holds the pins. The steel pins holding the straws have a series of parallel rings cut into them. As the straws are wrapped around the pin, they are gripped by a pair of semi-circular steel jaws, which have a complementary set of rings. The jaws crimp a series of rings into the straw. The crimp pattern allows the straws to bend without closing off. After these operations, the straws can then by proceed to packaging.


  • Straws are typically packaged in individual paper sleeves after manufacturing. This packaging is widely used for applications where each straw must be kept sanitary. One method of packaging involves loading the finished straws into a supply funnel. At the bottom of the hopper is a wheel with straw receiving grooves cut in it around its outer edge. The straws drop out of the hopper and are picked up one at a time by this rotating wheel. As the wheel rotates, it moves the straws along to a second wheel, which has grooves connecting to a vacuum source. Sheets or packaging material (paper wrap) are moved onto this wheel from a supply roller. The vacuum holds the paper in place while the main wheel feeds straws on top of the paper. Another layer of paper is guided over the first and the assembly then passes through a sealing roller. The two layers of paper are then crimped together with the application of pressure or otherwise sealed together. The sealed sheet of straws then travels along the conveyor to a punching region where a die presses down and cuts out individual straws. The die cut pieces then move along a conveyor to a collection area. The individual straws can then be bundled together and packed in boxes or pouches for shipping.

Quality Control

Drinking straw quality is determined at a number of key steps during the compounding and extrusion phases of the manufacturing process as well as after extrusion is complete. During compounding, the mixing process must be monitored to ensure the formula components are blended in the proper ratios. Before beginning the extrusion process, it is a common practice to purge some resin through the extruder. This purging helps clean out the barrel and acts as a check to make sure all molding systems are operating properly. At this stage, sample straws can be checked to make sure they achieve the proper dimensions. These samples can also be used to ensure manufacturing equipment is operating at the proper line speed.

During the extrusion process, it is critical that the resin is be kept at the proper temperature. Depending on the processing temperature (and the molecular weight of the polymer), plastic can flow as slowly as tar or as quickly as corn syrup. If the temperature is too cool, the viscosity increases dramatically, and the resin will not flow through the die. If the temperature is too high, thermal breakdown can occur. Over-heating can cause chemical changes in the resin, weakening the plastic and rendering it unsuitable for use in straw manufacturing. Under certain circumstances, die buildup occurs. When this happens, a glob of plastic gets stuck somewhere in the die. This glob eventually breaks free, becomes attached to the molded straw, and ruins its appearance. Unwanted chemical interactions can also effect the quality of the finished straws during the extrusion process. One problem is oxidation, which results from contact with air. This reaction can negatively impact the plastic. Similarly, the plastic interacts with any moisture that is present; too little moisture can make certain plastic blends too brittle.

After the manufacturing process is complete, it is critical that the extruder be properly cleaned. Thorough cleaning is necessary because different types of different colored plastics can be left behind in the extruder barrel. This residue can cause contamination in the next batch that is made. Die cleaning is done when the machine is still hot and traces of resin can be easily scraped from the metal.


The major waste product from straw manufacturing is the plastic resin. Resin, which is contaminated, overheated, or otherwise ruined must be discarded. However, straws, which fail for other reasons, can be reworked. This process of reusing plastic is known as regrinding and involves pulverizing the straws and remelting them. This can be done without loss of quality because of the thermoplastic nature of polypropylene.

The Future

There are a number of interesting new developments in straw technology. First, new and improved plastic blends are constantly being evaluated. This is necessary to keep costs down, meet regulatory requirements, and improve quality. In addition, new processing and design methods are being developed. These can expand the straws into new areas. For example, thermoliquid crystals, a special colorant that responds to changes in temperature, can be added to straws to make them change color when they come in contact with hot or cold liquid. Other unique applications include ways of printing straws with the identity of the beverage (e.g., diet, root beer, etc.). The straw can then be used to mark what the drink contains. Other advances include straws made by a blow molding process, which creates faces or other artifacts in the middle of the straw.

Where to Learn More


Richardson, Paul. Introduction to Extrusion. Brookfield Center, CT: Society of Plastic Engineers, 1974.


US patent 5,722,219. Method of Making a Drinking Straw.

[Article by: Randy Schueller]


Creative Citizen on Yahoo Green


Are you a creative citizen?

By Kastle Waserman

Posted Tue Jan 27, 2009 10:50am PST

The idea of global warming can sometimes be a daunting, overwhelming concept. How can one person help fix this problem that is literally changing the face of the earth? The website Creative Citizen offers a manageable answer — by one action at a time. Based on the idea of social networking, Creative Citizen consists of a community of people who are taking simple measures and have found creative ways to conserve, reuse, and recycle.

Together, they post and share ideas such as: Wash your car with a waterless cleaner, tell your dry cleaner to keep the plastic, have plants in your house as natural air purifiers, and the list goes on. Each solution tracks how much it will save in water, energy, waste, emissions, and dollars. You can search for creative solutions, read information about each idea, see photos, add or read comments, edit and provide more info, and then take an action by sending to a friend or bookmarking it.

By clicking “I’ll do it” you add to your “Greenage” as a Creative Citizen. “Greenage” is a tally of points Creative Citizens earn by participating in the online community. People with the most Greenage points can go on to make the Top Citizens board that lists the biggest contributors. In your Citizen profile, you can keep track of what solutions you’ve adopted and connect with friends and see what actions they’ve taken. It makes you feel like what it would like to live in an ideal green world where everybody cares and shares, and it’s a demonstration of what happens when people take small actions to make a big impact.

Now that’s getting eco-creative!

Check it out, Take a tour


Free Green Living Workshops in Santa Monica


Workshops will be held:

SM Public Library (Ocean Park Branch)

2601 Main Street @ Ocean Park
Santa Monica, CA 90405

January 24, 2009 @ 2:00 PM
Part 1
Green Living

This workshop on Green Living, will help lay the foundation to create your green abode
– whether you own or not. Learn the simple ways to make your home energy and
water efficient while eliminating toxins and drastically improving indoor air quality!

The workshop will cover a DIY cleaning product demo, lecture, and interaction with the

I will provide all attendees with an E-Book on all material covered as well as local

January 31, 2009 @ 2:00 PM
Part 2
Green Decor

Few people are aware, that just as in our homes as our workplace, there is an
opportunity to choose objects and products that do not pollute our homes and are
harmful to us and the environment.

Learn how to decorate your home in a way that improves your indoor air quality, and
your overall state of being, by pairing down on clutter and waste, eliminating toxins,
and breathing in a new breathe of fresh air into your home!

I will provide a basis of information that will help guide you in a direction of knowing
what questions to ask from your suppliers and manufacturers to insure that the
materials and finishes you choose for your home are environmentally sound.

There will be samples and materials incorporated, to provide a better understanding for
greening your decor!

Februray 07, 2009 @ 2:00 PM
Part 3
Green Landscaping/Gardening

A basic introduction, offering everything you wanted to know about greening your
garden and landscaping!

This workshop will provide an introduction to Permaculture and good gardening
practices, that you can begin implementing in your green space today!

Information will be provided on local programs, through Santa Monica, on sustainable
gardening and landscaping.

Learn simple tools that will help you save time, money, water and energy in your

Calender of Events in The World Of Green – Winter 2009

January 15 Green Building Workshop (Brooklyn, NY)

Time: 8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Location: LC 400, Dibner Library Building   5 MetroTech Center, Brooklyn, NY
A workshop that brings industry researchers and developers of green buildings technologies, entrepreneurs, investors, representatives from green buildings and sustainability initiatives, regulators, architects and building designers.

I will be speaking on ‘Integrating Green Building in the Urban Environment’

at 9:55 a.m. – 10:20 a.m.

January 24  – Green Living Workshop  – Part 1  (Santa Monica, CA)

Time: 2:00 PM
Location: Santa Monica Public Library (Ocean Park Branch)

2601 Main Street   Santa Monica, CA 90405
This workshop on Green Living, will help lay the foundation to create your green abode – whether you own or not.  Learn the simple ways to make your home energy and water efficient while eliminating toxins and drastically improving indoor air quality!

The workshop will cover a DIY cleaning product demo, lecture, and interaction with the audience.

I will provide all attendees with an E-Book on all material covered as well as local resources!

January 25 –   Go Green Expo –  (Los Angeles, CA)

Time –  10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Location: The Los Angeles Convention Center
1201 South Figueroa Street   Los Angeles, CA 90015

Go Green Expo is a showcase for earth-friendly products and services – a trade show that wholly focused on green living.

I will be on the panel for Green Building and Design on the tradeshow floor on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.

January 31  – Green Decor Workshop  – Part 2 (Santa Monica, CA)

Time: 2:00 PM
Location: Santa Monica Public Library (Ocean Park Branch)

2601 Main Street   Santa Monica, CA 90405

Few people are aware, that just as in our homes as our workplace, there is an opportunity to choose objects and products that do not pollute our homes and are harmful to us and the environment.

Learn how to decorate your home in a way that improves your indoor air quality, and your overall state of being, by pairing down on clutter and waste, eliminating toxins, and breathing in a new breathe of fresh air into your home!

I will provide a basis of information that will help guide you in a direction of knowing what questions to ask from your suppliers and manufacturers to insure that the materials and finishes you choose for your home are environmentally sound.

There will be samples and materials incorporated, to provide a better understanding for greening your decor!

February 07 – Green Landscaping Workshop  – Part 3  (Santa Monica, CA)

Time: 2:00 PM
Location: Santa Monica Public Library (Ocean Park Branch)

2601 Main Street Santa Monica, CA 90405

A basic introduction, offering everything you wanted to know about greening your garden and landscaping!

This workshop will provide an introduction to Permaculture and good gardening practices, that you can begin implementing in your green space today!  Learn simple tools that will help you save time, money, water and energy in your garden!

Information will be provided on local programs, through Santa Monica, on sustainable gardening and landscaping.

Integrating Green Building into the Urban Environment

Green Living Roof

Green Living Roof

The business, of environmental capital is not only a vast new market in the making, but it is a global economy, a shift in our patterns, as well as a turn in ecological literacy.

Urban green building has been on the forefront of this movement and has set the stage for us: the designers, architects and civilians of our country to drive this properly.

Let us start looking at all facets of the construction industry – the basic building blocks that represent the building industry – and begin filling in the gaps, where needed.

This is a ripe opportunity to integrate all the available elements that we have before us – while continuing to push the envelop in design.

Economy – New Business Model

As a new business model, Green Building has been speculated for some time, and perhaps, even considered a fad.  With the Dow Jones having introduced the Sustainability Index a mere nine years ago, this indicates that this shift had already begun to gain traction, on an economic and public front.

It was considered the first global platform in which indexes were tracked and measured for companies, that held the model of the triple bottom line.  A term used to reference the 21st c. business framework, that takes into account the people, the planet and profit.

As we move away from the old paradigms, that are disintegrating behind us –  we are in the midst of designing a new business model.  It is a model, that aside from the ubiquitous triple bottom line, is integrating the value of the collective.

Corporations are now finding themselves in a new state, yearning for the solutions that will help them compete and integrate into this new economy.  A sense of moving away from being compartmentalized and working in a more integrative system that will result in efficiency and profit.

An integrative strategy, represents a whole systems approach – taking into account the many variables at stake.  This creates an effort to design with a more wide approach, yet, while being able to be specialized.

We are sewing the tapestry of a new culture, here in our country, abroad, and within humanity.  As Americans, this is our opportunity to set the bar for ourselves, and set an example for the rest of the world.

It is imperative that we demonstrate that following our previous path, has lead us in a direction, that is having us, redirect the way we build and the way we live.

Building, is such a pivotal sector, within our economy.  If positioned properly, it can serve as a model for all other umbrella industries; as it already has begun to do so, with innovation in materials, technology and systems.

In the past 15 years, enough data has been gathered to build a case against conventional modes of construction and operation.

Buildings of the world consume:

17% of our clean water
25% of the wood harvested
40% of the world’s energy and materials

These numbers, alone, present an ideal opportunity to use the ingenuity we have been known for.  Create buildings that require less energy to perform, turn waste into energy, and releasing cleaner water.

Begin integrating nature as a model by moving away from linear thinking and mathematics to a more organic multifaceted frame of mind.  Because, the reality is that we live in a 3 dimensional world.

Green Building

Green Building has been one of the largest driving forces of this movement.  It has taken some time to realize that how we have been building, in the past, has been ineffective and inefficient; all while creating depletion of natural resources, en masse, and intoxicating ourselves.

Building greener buildings indicates using renewable energy alternatives, low impact efficient materials, in addition to, measuring the environmental performance of buildings.

Today, we have the knowledge, the technology and innovation to build in such ways that are not only, cutting edge and lucrative, but also offer, sustainable living or working environments, in addition to, being “smart”.

Smart buildings use internet protocol-based networks, new digital technology as well as proper design and building materials.  This innovation works to convert waste into energy, save on operational costs, by requiring less maintenance, and reduce energy and water consumption by storing and using these elements from the sun and rain.

Understanding the science of buildings, and the psychology of how people live and work, serve as pillars, to create efficient models, for the various phases of a building.

This foundation, can prove to facilitate efficiency and costs associated with the various stages of construction, renovation, operation, maintenance, demolition and recovery.

In essence, acknowledging the life cycle of buildings, will help urban designers and architects plan and design, in ways, that take far more into consideration than the mere aesthetic of a building.

Studying the location, the intended land use, the building objective, and projected occupant needs can begin to help set the scene for charettes, amongst the design team.

Charettes, are an open forum that is an integral component, found in virtually all green projects, where key players on the project, use their expertise in co-creating a fully integrated vision.

By incorporating: site location, human scale, and natural elements such as, weather patterns, and local materials into the design of buildings, projects work with available resources.

In understanding, the needs of a building, and integrating these elements, in such a way, that cohesively work together, have proven to be successful models that are in rhythm with the natural patterns of nature, and ebb and flow with the culture and seasons of a region.

Through the application of sustainable landscapes, design specifications correspond to site specific project locations, as well as with the local flora and fauna.  Natural settings  create habitats for building inhabitants to spend time outdoors, while encouraging native species and biodiversity to flourish.

In addition, to complementing the visual aesthetic, sustainable landscaping can be integrated into the model of the design and contribute to the energy and water efficiency of the building.  Indoor landscapes, also act as a natural filter – contributing to better indoor air quality and circulation.


Green building effects every sector in human development: from residential to commercial, education to non profit, and health care to entertainment.

Naturally, the initial cost impact of building green, may distract short sited builders and investors; although, there is a significant amount of data to back up any upfront cost associated with green building.

Benefits in productivity, increase in sales, lower rates of absenteeism, and overall employee and tenant satisfaction, rank extremely high in buildings considered green, versus their counterparts.

To an investor, this may seem trivial, yet, considering the significant added real estate value and low operating costs, it could appear to be more of an incentive to understand the larger market value

With certifications and green building programs, such as The Green Building Council’s LEED program and Build it Green, green building is now receiving the added property value and credentials it deserves.

Cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, have implemented green within their municipal policy for new commercial and Federal buildings to be a minimum, of being LEED certified.

In addition, they are facilitating work permits, expediting building plans and priority processing, which encourage, time sensitive projects to consider, this as viable and lucrative alternative.

On the state level, government is offering various incentives, rebates and tax credits for upgrading to energy star appliances, full energy audits and weatherization of homes.

On a local level, the development of legislation in creating a green framework, could prove to be the initiation, that commerce and residents, a like, need to embrace this new practice.

We are creatures of habit, and we are naturally slow, at the reception of change.

It is pivotal, to provide people with the health benefits associated with building sustainably; versus, using the scare tactic, and the costs associated with conditions like, sick building syndrome.

Providing home and business owners, with the multitude of ways in which money can be saved, by implementing green strategies, can serve as the turning point in which a consumer chooses green materials over the conventional counterpart.

With the installation of proper windows, good insulation, efficient fixtures, appliances, and HVAC systems, in addition to, energy and water conservation, can result in stark savings, over a short period of time.

With the learning curve we are living through, we are also writing the history books.

Learning what works, and what does not.  We will be in this phase of research and development for some time, as this is all new.

Materials and resources will continue to grow, and expand, as with the field of professionals, and with the depth of knowledge we will accrue over the years of experience.

It is imperative that we use this technology and innovation, that is currently available.  We must design buildings that help address energy and water efficiency, waste reduction, toxin elimination, improved indoor air quality, and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Urban Green Building

Integrating green into the urbanization of our cities, requires the proper tools to keep within the evolving fabric of a metropolis.

As cities evolve over the years, they begin to build their history, reflecting a community’s current social and economic state.  Implementing green strategies to compliment the landscape of urban development, and seamlessly integrating it.

Today, we build buildings with a life cycle of 50 – 60 years and materials and products with a virtually disposable lifespan.  A mere 100 years ago, people built things to last – a stark contrast, to where we are today.

This is a huge component within the green building initiative that must be addressed – Recreating our frame of mind to design works of art that will leave a lasting impression.

More over, supporting cost-effective dis-assembly, by understanding the future reuse of building materials, will help reduce the amount of waste associated with the deconstruction of a building.

As other countries, continue to emulate the way in which a live and build, we have the ripe opportunity to educate others with Eco Literacy.

By building, a robust green building infrastructure – a road map, per se, where others can have this knowledge available to them.

Design a Green Building Standard where case studies are available to the public and where short and long term solutions can easily, be modeled, with the added benefits for incorporating them.

There is a level of transparency where we are given the opportunity to fully impart the knowledge of what going green truly represents.   Become less ambiguous and available for all.

We need to create a local infrastructure, where  social equity creates a revenue model within sustainability.

As the market size widens, the trends and opportunities across the green building sectors are only going to grow on an exponential level.

In theory, we are currently one of the very few growing markets, and as the leaders of our communities we need to take a rise at this movement and truly take a lead……..

Plastic is a Faux Pas


So Plastic is a faux pas?  But isn’t one of man’s best 20th c. inventions?  Perhaps, but that is debatable.  Yes, it has endless benefits in the medical field and various other industries …. but, could it be that we, as a race, are addicted to it?

I strongly believe we are.

Plastic is the general common term for a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solid materials suitable for the manufacture of industrial products.

It is malleable allowing itself to be cast, pressed, or extruded into an enormous variety of shapes and products—such as film, fibers, cups, plates, phones, zip lok bags, computers, bottles, boxes, and of course so much more.

So what is the problem with plastic, anyways?

In reality this is a two fold issue that remains very hidden from many peoples’ consciousness  –  it is both environmental and health related.

Whether we are aware of this or not, both, our health and our environment are in peril –  because of our abuse and addiction to plastic.

Just stop and think, virtually everything we use in our lives, on a daily basis, is a derivative of plastic.

A material that does not have the same recyclable rate, that most people believe to be true that could actually justify how much of it they use.

Plastic is everywhere!  Its an inevitable fact, and the ghost of the industrial revolution that will be haunting us for millennia to come.

The tide of plastic has been rising in shores all over the world – from our beaches in Santa Monica to the Maldives in the Indian Ocean to even uninhabited places like the Arctic.

Although many American beaches — may not display the reality what is happening in our oceans, I invite you to go down to the shore, the morning after a rain, and you will see the evidence of our civilization.

Evidence, that if not picked up before the high tide by volunteer beach clean up, will end up in our oceans.

There is an expression  –  out sight out of mind.

The problem with that frame of mind, is that people continue to forget that will live on this planet together – and everything is effected – maybe not today or tomorrow, but eventually.

All this plastic and litter has been creating islands of garbage all throughout our oceans.

We have one, a mere 1000 miles from our shores in an area known as the North Pacific Gyre, this garbage island has sweetly dubbed The Garbage Patch.

I have a sample of that water here with me.  As you will notice there are particles of plastic floating along with the plankton ….
currently, plastic outweighs plankton 24:1

So what does that mean?  That our birds and fish are eating this plastic mistaking it for jelly fish and plankton, amongst other things.

In turn, we are eating these fish and inadvertently consuming the residue of these chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins and other chemical pollutants.

As humans, being on top of the food chain, chemicals bio-accumulate in the fatty tissue of animals, and it accumulates as it rises on the food chain; breast milk being on the top of our food chain.  Leaving us at the mercy of our own vices.

In the past year there has been a lot of buzz in reference to plastic drinking bottles and the chemicals that are known to leach out of them.

The compound bisphenol A also known as BPA has been is widely used in the production of transparent plastic bottles, tin cans, and soft drinks.

Unfortunately, this chemical has been known to mimic the female hormone oestrogen, which leads some scientists to believe that it may cause damage to an unborn baby’s growing sex organs as well as imbalance the hormones of adults, raises the risk of certain cancers, hampers fertility, cause a higher incidence of miscarriage, and reduce sperm count amongst many other health risks.

The United States currently has one of the highest rates of infant mortality for a first world country, in addition to, unusual infertility rates.

So what exactly does BPA do?  It mimics naturally occurring estrogen, a hormone that is part of the endocrine system, the body’s finely tuned messaging service, these hormones control the development of the brain, the reproductive system and many other systems.

Phthalates are a group of widely used chemicals that make plastic softer and help stabilize fragrance in personal care products.

Found in:

Soaps, lotions and perfumes, fragrances, deodorant, perfume, children’s toys, infant care products, cosmetics, food packaging, vinyl flooring, blood storage containers, teethers, toys, and food wrap, toothbrushes

So how does one become exposed?  Its actually really easy and may happen on a daily basis if you are unaware.  Phthalate which can migrate into food from certain food wraps during storage with common plastic containers, Zip Lok bags, and Seran Wrap.

This is a chemical that is so widely used, and rarely spoken about yet should be something every America should be aware of.

It causes Infertility, birth defects and other malformations of the male reproductive tract.

Phthalates may adversely affect male reproductive function at levels commonly found in people. Young infants and fetuses are most vulnerable to the potential adverse effects of phthalates.

High phthalate levels cause feminized genitals in baby boys. Prenatal phthalate exposure has been linked with incomplete testicular descent and smaller penises in male babies. The study also found more than 80 percent of infants tested had been exposed to phthalates.

The EU has ban some phthalates from cosmetics and toys, and California banned the chemicals from baby toys – but phthalates are legal to use in personal care products sold in the United States, and there are no requirements to label products for phthalate content.

In this country new born infants are born with over 300 chemicals in their bodies.

An alarming number that should make every single one of us be more aware of our use and abuse of plastic.

So what does one do?

Buy glass instead of plastic jar products (i.e. peanut butter jars, etc)
Do not store or heat food in plastic
Volunteer for beach clean-ups
Eliminate your need for single use plastic bottles – use a stylized  reusable bottle instead!
Avoid plastic – find alternatives
Educate others

So next time you are asked in the market whether you want PAPER OR PLASTIC – proudly say neither, and make the conscious realization that one is derived from living trees and the other is non-biodegradable petro based product!

Message In A Bottle

To raise awareness on the magnitude of the Garbage Patch, also known as The North Pacific Gyre, a sea craft aptly named “Junk”  set sail late in the Summer.   Scientist Marcus Eriksen, of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation (AMRF), in addition to, another researcher and filmmaker spearheaded the idea to create a makeshift watercraft that would set sail from Long Beach and make the 2100 mile to Hawaii.

They built the vessel out of junk; an old Cessna 310 body and about 15,000 used plastic bottles were used.

There mission, spoke volumes of the problem – plastic is in our oceans and the problem needs to be addressed on a massive scale.  AMRF also does most of the research on the North Pacific Gyre Garbage Patch – bringing back samples of water and data that can leave anyone numb.

Their message in a bottle, is a metaphor to be taken for what it is.  It is an SOS from our oceans to all who come in touch with it – there are 3.5 million tons of plastic in our oceans, and individually we make a significant difference to eliminate our personal use of it.

This is a serious problem that can be addressed on the ground level (by eliminating the use of all plastic derived products) as well as on the governmental level (write to push further plastic bag ban laws).

If you have not considered replacing your plastic bottles with reusable aluminum bottles – now would be an excellent time.  Single use plastic containers, bottles and bags have become a convenience of our time, with dire consequences.  Consider the lifecycle it takes to create anyone of these items, and the amount of time it takes to discard it – never to biodegrade.

For further information on the Garbage Patch, please read previous blog entries.