Earth Matters by Jacqueline Milner – There is no Planet B – November 12, 2012

Earth Matters by Jacqueline Milner – There is no Planet B – November 12, 2012

CFN – Over the last week I was shopping specifically for some paper cups.  I was attending a social function and I had volunteered to bring some disposable paper cups for the occasion.  On entering the first store to find my intended purchase a service person asked if they could help me with anything.  I said I was looking for paper cups.  This person was kind enough to direct me to the isle containing the one time use plates and cups which contained mostly Styrofoam and plastic product which I was intent on staying away from.  On glancing through the enormous inventory of product I did spot some paper cups which were geared to a child’s tastes.  On to store number two.

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Store number two had a wide selection of plastic and Styrofoam product however not a paper product in sight.  You may be wondering why I was insistent on using a paper product.  Well between the three choices of material, paper is, in my estimation, the most earth friendly.  Trees, the product from which our paper cups are made are a renewable resource and the waste from this ‘one time use item’ can be composted.  In the case where the cup inadvertently finds its way to a field or roadside this product will eventually break down, in a much shorter time frame.

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So how long does it take for a paper cup to break down?  According to www.madsci.org “the breakdown time of waste is a function of time combined with moisture” and heat so depending on the conditions can take from 4 weeks to 15 years.  According to this site many of our landfill sites entomb the waste in a dry state as keeping the water out prevents seeping of the composted materials and chemicals from making their way into our water ways.

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Plastic and Styrofoam are petroleum based products, which is a finite resource and furthermore it is not known if the Styrofoam would ever breakdown.  According to the Environmental Justice Network, styrene is “known to indiscriminately attack tissue and the nervous system” and is absorbed through the skin, lungs and intestines.  As noted in www.enn.com “Styrofoam is also known as polystyrene, which is made of styrene.  Polystyrene is not recycled in most North American cities, and takes 900 years to break down in a landfill.”

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So what about the plastic cup?  I have read various articles that determine the breakdown time to be from hundreds of years to an undeterminable amount of time.  The following article comes to the conclusion that plastic uses fewer resources and they give a thumb’s up to plastic as opposed to the paper product.  http://www.angelfire.com/wi/PaperVsPlastic/  Having read about the massive Pacific plastic garbage patch, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_Garbage_Patch   and the hundreds of thousands of creatures which die ANNUALLY from plastic consumption I cannot see this as earth friendly.

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So what is a person to do?  If you are concerned about the state of our living earth and our habitats, inform yourself and incorporate earth friendly actions into your day to day.  If you know you will be attending a function that will be using disposable tableware, bring your own to use.  If you are organizing a function, why not make it a “bring your own tableware function”.  Who knows, you just might get your associates to rethink their actions in such a situation.  Yes it can be mind boggling to dig through all the contradictory information.  Yes it is can take extra time and money to take the earth friendly action.  Isn’t it time that we think about the effects our actions have on the world that our children will inherit?  Isn’t the health of our planet worth it?

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Please keep this in mind…THERE IS NO PLANET B.

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Your commentary is encouraged and always welcome below or to earthmatters@jmilner.com

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