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Remember Mother Earth on Mother’s Day

Take a pledge to break a bad plastics habit

photo by Heal the Bay
      Taking the straw is a hard habit to break. I’m all for it morally and intellectually. Then opportunity arises, and the serious business of what to order to drink and eat pushes my resolve into the pale of forgetfulness. With the arrival of my drink — even water — plus straw, I remember — but by then it’s too late. One more straw among tens of thousands — maybe even millions — into today’s waste stream, much of which flows downstream into our oceans.
       Seventy-percent of marine litter is non-degradable plastic, according to an official United Kingdom Government Office for Science report. 
It didn’t use to be this way. Plastics’ world conquest is new history. 
      Preparing Bay Weekly’s Last Minute Camp Guide for this week’s paper reminds me that I went to camp with a metal mess kit, cup and utensils; no plastics. Today’s kids will carry plastic, eat off of and drink out of plastic, throw away plastic.
      We’re living in the Plastics Age, just as surely as our ancestors back three millennia lived in the Iron Age. We use plastic in every aspect of our lives, from our toothbrushes to our phones, from the buttons on our shirts and blouses to our cars. New plastics sneak into our lives every day, quickly becoming indispensible, as coffee capsules have. So you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that plastic ocean litter is projected to increase threefold over the next decade.
       Our plastic is habit forming. Some of the plastic — like the plastic in my phone and car — is so ingrained in the way we live that I can’t imagine how to avoid it. Some of it — like single-use plastic straws, utensils and drink cups — is a habit I’m eager to break.
       Yet I remain a bad example of how hard the plastic habit is to break. Except when I’m shopping in Washington, D.C., where plastic shopping bags carry a five-cent fee. There, I’m a disciple of the city’s all-out commitment to keep high-density polyethylene out of its trees, fences, streets and rivers, and I remember my reusable bags. So do other shoppers. Checkout at D.C. grocery stores is way different from our Chesapeake Country stores. There, we leave with full reusable bags. Here, we wheel carts filled with HDPE bags to our cars.
        Being part of a movement helps each of us break the habit of using tons of plastic we don’t really need. So I’m writing this week to share the good news that a couple of habit-breaking movements are coming our way.
         Bans on polystyrene foam food containers will be considered in both Anne Arundel County and the City of Annapolis, in county and city councils. 
         “With more than 500 miles of tidal shoreline and a vast network of creeks and streams, it’s time for us to join the club and keep this harmful material out of our waterways,” say Anne Arundel County councilman Chris Trumbauer, the ban sponsor and a former West/Rhode Riverkeeper.
        Alderman Rob Savidge proposes the ban to Annapolis this week.
       That’s a proposal we can get behind by changing our own habits and by lobbying our councilmen and aldermen and alderwomen for their support.
         We can also take the Plastics Pledge for Endangered Species, joining the Endangered Species Coalition in saying no to single-use plastics May 13-19, the week of Endangered Species Day.
       Here’s the pledge:
       I commit to avoiding plastic straws, shopping bags, disposable utensils, beverage containers and coffee capsules for the week of Endangered Species Day (May 13-19). By doing so, I will do my part to protect marine species by keeping plastic debris out of our oceans.
        Make your pledge at
        I’ve made my pledge, so I’m going to have to live up to it. I’m thinking of it as my Mother’s Day gift to Mother Nature. Make your pledge, too, and we can help one another to stick to it and break the habit.