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Pernicious plastics causing harm in the waterways

by Haley Nowowiejski

Convenience tends to be something that people are hungry for. Whatever can make our lives easier should benefit us in the end, but that isn’t always the case. When it comes to using single-use plastic items it may be convenient, however these items are starting to harm our environment with the multitude that they are being used. Single-use plastic items are any items such as plastic bags, straws, plastic bottles, cutlery utensils, and more that are only used once and are then thrown away. As humans it is our job to realize the harm these single-use plastic items are causing and to take a step back to see what we can do to start reducing our usage.

The harm single-use plastic items have on our environment is only starting to worsen with the more people that use them and the carelessness that goes along with the usage. If not disposed of properly, single-use plastic can be littered and find its way into our waterway systems. With a build up of single-use plastic in our waterways it can cause marine life to be affected by mistaking it for food or by a buildup of the trash over taking its habitat. These items either do not decompose and/or take a far-seeing time to break down in which they will become microplastics. In the abundance that single-use plastic items are being used, even if the items are thrown away properly it leads to more trash needing to be disposed of, especially when people do not recycle. I think that it is important that we reduce the waste because we are struggling more with where to get rid of the countless trash.

Reducing the use of single-use plastic is starting to become a worldwide movement where people are using alternatives to the single-use items that they have become so accustomed to. The most popular movement that people now know about is the “Skip the Straw” movement. Skipping out on a plastic straw is such an easy task  to do where you can simply buy a reusable straw and just always remember to say “no straw” when ordering a drink. A lot of businesses are starting to join this movement where they either do not hand out straws or they offer paper straws as an alternative. In the fall of 2018, The University of Tampa started serving only paper straws for students to use. There are plenty of steps you can take to decrease your usage of single-use plastics that I have become accustomed to. As a marine biology student, I have developed a passion for wanting to reduce my usage of single-use plastic items because of my love for the ocean and all its inhabitants. 

For a while I have taken many steps to decrease my usage of single-use plastics in which I always encourage my friends and family to start taking part in the movement as well. I always carry around my own reusable water bottle and fill it up throughout the day instead of getting a single-use plastic bottle or a paper cup. When I go shopping, I always make sure to bring my own reusable bags for my groceries and even have my own produce bags instead of the plastic ones. For the packaging of food, I always use tupperware containers and/or reusable plastic baggies. All these small efforts that I am taking contribute to less waste reaching our landfills and/or by getting into our waterway systems. By taking into consideration some of these small changes to your lifestyle, you too can start making a difference.

In an effort to reduce the use of single-use plastics, the City of Tampa, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful and Hillsborough County are allowing individuals and businesses to take a pledge on what they are going to do to reduce their usage of single-use plastic. Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful mentions more tips on how you can start reducing your usage of single-use plastics. By going onto the Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful website at ReduceYourUseTampaBay.org you can pledge to reduce your single-use plastic usage by marking off what you are going to try to do to make a difference. I think that it is very important that we consider these lifestyle changes because it is only going to better our environment.

Haley Nowowiejski can be reached at haley.nowowiejski@spartans.ut.edu

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