The Outreach Program project was an engaging experience and a great learning tool! All of my classmates’ projects were intriguing; I wish I had had such outreach programs available to me in my elementary and/or high school years. One of the key reasons I wanted to research plastic pollution is so I myself could learn ways to help. Seeing litter not only in bodies of water, but in nature and urban locations as well is tragic (especially when there are recycling bins in the area).
I have always made great attempts to live plastic free. I always take cloth totes with me to grocery stores, I reuse plastic containers, bags and silverware, and I recycle. I never bought school lunches; I packed food from home in reusable containers. But this was mostly due to my upbringing. I grew up reusing and recycling, so that’s what I knew. I had no idea how severe plastic waste is across the globe, and those shocking statistics have provided me with purpose and motivation. Prior to the outreach project, forgetting to bring tote bags to the grocery store was no big deal. Now if I forget, I feel guilty and make a strict mental note to remember next time. Living plastic free has so much more meaning now, and I continue to make changes to my lifestyle in order to live more eco-friendly.
During our presentation, a good point was brought up: in some places, you must pay for plastic bags. One of my favorite grocery stores is Aldi, for they charge customers for plastic bags. I wanted to find out more about pricing plastic bags, so I did some research on Pennsylvania in particular, for it’s my home state. I found an article from 2013 online titled “Pennsylvania Mulls First Statewide Plastic Bag Tax in the US as a Small Price to Pay”. A bill for plastic bag tax was passed in 2013, which would charge a $0.02 tax on every plastic bag used by customers. Though it can add up after a hefty shopping trip, it doesn’t seem enough to encourage people to reject plastic bags. The article states “studies generally indicate that taxes need to hit a certain pain level to change behavior”. Though the use of plastic bags in grocery stores has dropped, I can only imagine how much better it would be if everyone was required to bring his or her own totes when shopping. Here’s a scary statistic from the 2013 article: “Currently, the average American family uses 60 plastic bags in just four trips to the grocery store.” Americans use about 102.1 billion plastic bags every year, and less than one percent are recycled. If tote bags were required, think of how much plastic-free our world would be!