Journalist and author Harold Johnson has posted a column on the perils of plastics pollution that's worth a look, even for readers who are unapologetically pro-plastics. You may remember Johnson -- he's the writer who researched and debunked the oft-cited statistic that plastic debris kills 100,000 marine animals a year. He's also author of The Flotsam Diaries blog, where he records all the trash he picks up on a quiet beach in Saco, Maine.. Johnson's latest column appeared in The Portland Press Herald's "Maine Voices" section, The headline: "In Maine and around the world, oceans, shores filling with plastic." Obviously he's not a big fan of single-use disposable plastics. "We have filled our households and our lives with stuff we use for a month or a day or five minutes, but which persists for a dozen lifetimes," he writes. "The average American goes through 220 pounds of plastic a year." He anticipates the argument that plastic pollution is a result of improper disposal, saying: "Garbage has always escaped from the waste stream. (Not to mention from windstorms, floods and worse disasters.) It always will. Despite our best efforts. Now that most garbage is plastic, every escapee adds to the persistent fouling of our shores and waters." Johnson has a point. Remember the dramatic video footage of the tsunami striking Japan last year, sweeping away everything in sight? Plastic pollution is already a serious problem -- Johnson knows from his own beach clean-up routine, and he also cites Columbia University research that estimates at least 73 million pounds of plastic now floats in the world's oceans. Johnson's solution to the problem is simple -- he's an advocate of the philosophy that I'll call "use less stuff." "Plastics certainly have their benefits and their place. But our gross overuse of them has polluted nearly every last pristine, remote place left in the world, as well as our own backyard. It's time to change the game," he writes. Could there be another solution? Truly biodegradable plastics could help, although I don't expect them to be more than niche materials for the foreseeable future. And I believe stepped up efforts to recycle single-use plastics can help. In the United States, at least, there's a lot of room for improvement in recycling nearly all plastic products. As Johnson notes, that wouldn't completely put a stop to the plastics litter problem. But it would be a good start.
Author describes challenges of living in a plasticized world
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