The island off the eastern coast of Mexico, Cozumel, is naturally one of the world’s most beautiful Coral Reefs. However, this island is not pristine as I originally thought. Well, of course when I say pristine I don’t mean that I thought it was untouched by human activity and was in its original, natural condition. At the very least I thought the beaches would be beautiful, clean and well-kept by tourists and citizens. Are these people solely responsible for plastic pollution on the island? I doubt it. It was very clear that plastic debris had come ashore from across the ocean waters.
To my dismay, the beaches were covered with plastic debris. Straws, plastic bags and water bottles; you name the single use object and it was there.
This is heartbreaking; we are responsible for this. We should not blame whoever did not ‘tidy’ the beach; those responsible are the people who created the problem in the first place, the people who did not care to reduce the use of these products in their lifestyle. Even if this is not their specific plastic water bottle, they have contributed to plastic waste which must bediscarded somewhere else on the Earth. They’ve thrown it ‘out’. ‘Out,’ in the way most people understand, gets rid of the problem… but in reality ‘out’ does not exist. ’Out’ merely implies that it is out of our line of view, it has been put somewhere where we can simply forget it and replace the single use product with another. Unfortunately, if anyone believes that recycling plastic makes single use products sustainable they are making the assumption that
1. recycling companies recycle everything they acquire from the consumer and
2. recycling turns a plastic water bottle into a new plastic water bottle (water bottle as an example which applies to other products such as plastic bags and plastic utensils).
Both assumptions are false. Oftentimes recycling companies do not have a market for certain types of plastic, so it isn’t worth their time and money to recycle it. They truck the unwanted plastic to a landfill.
If the product does; however, have a market and is ‘recycled’the chemical composition of the recycled plastic makes it unlikely to be recycled ever again… so recycled plastic normally composes objects such as plastic park benches (something that could be made of decomposable wood). Plastic is here forever. When plastic breaks apart by sunlight (photodegrade), it’s toxic chemicals are here forever. Plastic does not biodegrade.
In saying that, I am not opposed to recycling; it is important to recycle the plastic we’ve already created… but the consumer and the producer should avoid single-use plastic products initially.
Sadly, the aesthetics of this situation are not even close to the most bothersome consequence of plastic debris. The majestic wildlife and diversity that I observed on the island is at risk of mistaking toxic plastic for food.
Marvel at the beauty of nature.