Green Cities

Change behavior to protect our communities from pollution: Environmentalists sound off

Earth Day Network – Letter to the editor published in USA Today –

Letters to the editor: 

The column “On Earth Day, you shouldn’t feel guilty about your plastic trash” was incomplete. The scope and concerns about plastic pollution today go way beyond the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. While Asian plastic sources and abandoned fishnets are the largest single components of the huge Pacific patches, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be improving our practices. Communities around the globe, including those right here in the U.S., are struggling to manage and pay for the explosion in plastic waste clogging waterways and polluting roadways, parks and neighborhoods. In the Los Angeles area, more than 10 metric tons of plastic fragments, such as bags, straws and bottles, are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day.

To suggest this problem can be addressed simply by improving government collection systems and burning waste ignores the high cost of such technology and the harmful pollution created by open burning.

Why should we spend money on expensive collection, recycling and waste management when so many environmentally friendly inexpensive alternatives to single-use plastics exist? And what about the health risks? Plastics have contributed to significant health threats that include widespread, unwanted exposure to endocrine-disrupting BPA and DEHP and links to cancer and other health issues.

The first Earth Day engaged 20 million Americans in individual and collective action, setting in motion the framework environmental laws that cleared our skies and protected our water. To tackle the problem of plastic pollution in our own backyards and bodies, we need to start with changing our own behavior and call on our leaders in government and business to follow suit.

Denis Hayes, organizer of the first Earth Day in 1970 and Kathleen Rogers, president of the Earth Day Network; Washington, D.C.