Importance of Natural Resources

REI Presents: In Our Nature – Ep 4 | What do we do about plastics?


(relaxed house music) – Oh hello everyone. Good morning and welcome to breakfast where I will be making hipster toast, or as I like to call it, toast. You’ve got the avocado,
the eggs, the bread and arguably, the most
important ingredient, salt. Let’s get started. Cue montage. (relaxed house music) (girl humming) My favorite part, the salt. And salt obviously comes in plastic but people are telling me, and
by people I mean my friends and people I follow on social media, are sharing headlines that
there are little bits of plastic in the salt that eventually
gets into my body. In fact, some studies are showing that 90% of salt contains microplastics which is a little
disconcerting if you ask me. I like the food that
comes inside the plastic but I don’t really think that plastic should come in the food. All do say, it seems like we
have a huge plastic problem. I mean, everywhere I look
there’s a plastic problem. There’s plastic in the rivers,
plastic in national parks, plastic in cities. There are thousands
and thousands of pieces of trash literally swirling in the Great Pacific garbage patch and now there’s plastic in our bodies. But how bad is the situation? How badly are we addicted to plastic and if it’s that bad what in the world are we gonna do about it? (relaxed pop music) Hey everyone I’m Erin and I’m curious about what the future of
the outdoors looks like. (relaxed pop music) Hey everyone so I just arrived in Chicago and I wanted to see how
plastics are affecting some of America’s greatest natural resources, like the great lakes. (relaxed house music) It’s challenging enough not to use plastic when you’re traveling but even when I’m not on the road, I’m learning just how much plastic is involved in every
single day of my life. Our lives are inundated with plastic which is extraordinary when
you consider that plastic has only been around for the past century. This material that has
incredible durability, that is responsible for
so much of modern life, and that touches almost
every moment of every day, and sometimes we only use it
for a brief moment in time is causing some major problems. And when you really
start looking for it… Guys, show them your plastic. This is three blocks of plastic. And we can’t unsee it. Three blocks. Do you guys wanna get some lunch? Let’s talk about how much
plastic we are using. Turns out, it’s quite a lot. (relaxed pop music) It’s hard to quantify exactly
how much plastic we’re using because it’s such a broad category. So let’s focus on the biggest culprit: single use plastic. Nearly a million plastic beverage bottles are sold every single
minute around the world. Humans produce almost
20,000 plastic bottles every single second. World wide, two million plastic
bags are used every minute. And in case you thought the
US wasn’t apart of this, New Yorkers alone use 23
billion plastic bags every year and across the US we use about
one bag per person per day which is crazy when you consider that on average one plastic bag
is used for just 12 minutes. And our plastic rampage is only increasing with over half of
plastic ever manufactured having been made since 2000. Like I said, that is a ton of plastic use which would be fine I
guess, if recycling worked. I hate that we’re doing this. (classical music) Uh, okay, so the bag goes in the trash and then the other stuff
goes in the recycling? Or can the stuff the food
touch not go in the recycling? I read this but I don’t
really know in the moment what to do. So I’m just gonna do my best and try to separate everything. Okay, we’re gonna, food there. Ooh, I hope this is right. Straws are not recyclable. Sorry. This is, I’m gonna say it is recycled. Oh okay this has some sauce on it. This is recycla, is it? Wait, yes. What if I do this? – [Man] Trash it. – Isn’t it like a percentage? – [Man] I think you have to wash it. – So I have to put this in the trash? – [Man] It’s better to put it in the trash than recycle it. (garbage crushing) Hi we are at the great lakes today with the Alliance for the Great Lakes about to do a little trash pickup. (hip-hop music) I feel confident in reporting
that the Great Lakes are in fact great. They account for one whole
fifth of the freshwater surface of the planet at six quadrillion gallons. Because of the size, the Great
Lakes are often referred to as the nation’s fourth coast. But they’re living up to that
name in some unfortunate ways. – I’m Jennifer Caddick, I’m
Vice President of Communications of the Alliance for the Great Lakes. One thing that we consistently
know after looking at 20 plus years worth of
data from our beach cleanups is that consistently
about 85% of the litter that volunteers pick up is made wholly or in part of plastic. And so that’s really important for us to understand just the scale and size of the plastic pollution
problem that we have here on our beaches and what ultimately
can end up in our lakes. – Let’s see how long it
takes us to find some trash. We wanted to see how much
plastic we could find in five minutes in just this little patch. And this was just the plastic we could see with our eyeballs. – I study trash, meaning all
sorts of different things that people throw away. Plastic is a term that
is really an umbrella phrase that encompasses lots and lots of different kinds of chemicals. All the way down to the
smallest bits of trash that are microscopic. – Most of the plastic in the
ocean and the Great Lakes is really hard to see. It’s about the size of a grain of sand and that’s where we come back to the salt. Remember, avocado toast. And we start to hear more
about that freaky thing, microplastics. Dun dun dun! – When you take a quick
glance it doesn’t look like there’s a lot of litter or pollution here but once you start looking
people really do find a lot and one of the biggest
things people pick up are microplastics, which
are pieces of plastic that are broken off of
some larger plastic item that has ultimately over time, broken into smaller and smaller pieces. – [Erin] Microplastics and
microfibers come from everywhere. They are broken off of
car tires, fishing nets, carpet in your home, and
they are also washed off of our synthetic and
even our natural fabrics in the laundry. In fact, by some estimates,
a single load of laundry can release hundreds of thousands of what are called microfibers. – Researchers have found microplastics in alarmingly high levels
in all five Great Lakes. And again, remember, these lakes are our drinking water source for 40 million Americans and Canadians. But we don’t know very much
about what the impact of that is on human health or on wildlife health. So this is a really concerning problem. – While we all may have
seen terribly photos of dead seabirds with
plastic in their stomachs, experiments are showing
that even microplastics can damage animals by
blocking digestive tracts, diminishing urges to eat, and altering feeding behavior. That means that even here
where 40 million people get their drinking water,
and plenty others catch and eat fresh fish, we’re
ingesting the same plastic that is killing some sea life. But is it harming us? Well the research isn’t
quite out on that yet. Some scientists say
that it’s a low concern, saying there’s no health risk to humans, while others say we need more research. – We wanna know what’s out there, where it’s coming from, where it’s going, and how it interacts with
living things along the way. I know we can’t solve all of the problems. But at least we can be informed
about the various degrees and nature of the problem. And we’re still at that step. We’re still in the beginning. We wanna know what’s out there. The truth is, plastic comes
with a whole assortment of chemicals that can
interfere with our health and that’s probably not good for us. You could try to save yourself by buying clean, bottled water, but then you’re just
accumulating more plastic and a lot of that water is
pulled from the same source and has just as much plastic in it. So it just becomes a cycle
of creating more of a problem by trying to avoid it. With plastic production
set to keep growing until there will be more plastic by weight than fish in the sea,
what do we do about it? First, we could use less plastic, and this is possible. Starting personally, I
could take a reusable cup to get my coffee or use
a reusable water bottle. Obviously take reusable shopping bags for grocery shopping. I could even carry my own containers for takeout or leftovers. And if I do end up using plastic, I can look up what’s
recyclable in my local area. Check the label, get
it into the right bin, and recycle as much as possible. Second, we could prevent
plastic from making it into the oceans and
ultimately our food chains. One example is this guppy friend bag. It helps prevent microfibers from leaving your washing machines which is one of the main contributors to microfibers in our water. Next, we can make purchases
from companies that care. Some companies are starting
to own up to their impact and making big changes like
evaluating their supply chain and manufacturing practices and committing to big goals
like becoming zero waste. When we support companies that care, we are signaling to other
companies that they should commit to making a change as well. And finally, if we want to
fight this wave of plastics, we can ask our policy
makers to make a change. For instance, many states
are banning plastics or charging for them,
and those policies seem to be working. Even Nepal is banning single-use plastic in the Everest region after they recovered
over three metric tons off the mountain. Little stat for ya, Denmark uses four single-use plastic bags per person per year, compared
to the US, which uses 365. So yeah, I think we could be
doing a little bit better. – It’s very reasonable
to look at this problem and be overwhelmed and to feel like you
wanna throw your hands up and say, “This is it. This is a terrible thing,
there’s no solution, the scope is just too big.” And I understand that reaction and I think that that’s what a
reasonable person might think when they look at the
scale of the problem. – Let’s see. Almost one pound!
– But I think there’s reason also to believe that we
can make improvements. The momentum is building
towards a consensus. A cultural shift about our
relationship to plastic. Listen, worrying about your
everyday environmental footprint can be exhausting for some,
inconvenient for others, and downright unattainable
for those who literally can’t afford to live without plastic. And if I’m adding something
more to your list, it can just feel like a lot of pressure. That’s why we need to
add some fun in the mix. Thus I introduce you to
my new hobby, plogging. (laughs) Originally called ‘Plogga’, it
combines the words ‘jogging’ and ‘plocka upp’ which
is Swedish for ‘pick up’ and is the newest fitness
craze to hit the US. This is real. So let’s go for a jog
and pick up some trash. (excited pop music) Hey everyone, thank you
so much for watching. Obviously plastics is a massive topic but hopefully this gives
you an introduction about plastics in general and an introduction to
microplastics as well. And we know there’s a lot more discussion that needs to happen on
the topic of plastics so please head down to the comments below and let us know what
else you’d like to learn. Hope to see you next time.


Reader Comments

  1. An abundance of the "recyclable" plastics don't ever get recycled, even though they're placed in the recycle waste containers. There is far more waste plastic than there is infrastructure to actually recycle it. The best we can do is just avoid single use plastic whenever possible. It's a change of mindset, but it's really not the hard once you get in the habit.

  2. NICE UPLOAD! when I was in school and learned about this I got really passionate about removing my environmental footprint, thanks for the reminder. I'ma probably do that jogging pick up sometime soon that's awesome

  3. The coffee company with the mermaid on a green background felt the need to mail me a reusable Xmas cup & lid made of plastic that I didn’t ask for. I usually use a metal reusable cup that I expect to last for years. I’d mail it back, but I’m sure that would do any good.

  4. If I end up in an emergency room I hope I get treatment with all kinds of disposable plastics. I want to save thousands of dollars a year because my purchases are cheaper thanks to plastics. I want this video to be sent to global polluters like China and India. Stop perpetuating the western world's guilt for problems we go above and beyond at great cost to prevent.

  5. WOE. Good points..sort of.
    First, we can help clean up our freshwater and better enforce ILLEGAL Dumping; that's the biggest way plastic gets in our fresh waters.

    In regards to ocean plastic it makes me REALLY Pissed at China and India-for 98% of all ocean plastic is from there.

  6. I got this as an ad in the middle of one of the vids i was watching. I watched the whole ad. Credit to the structure of the video to keep me "interested" and not clicking the skip ad button. And now I'm here commenting to hopefully help the visibility of this important topic.

  7. Decades ago everything was sold in cardboard or paper….. everything is sold in plastic, shipped in plastic, and so forth. People these days want this "experience' with opening packages and that is a HUGE issue in the amount of plastics that are used. Marketing, flat out is one of the biggest culprits. Imagine if amazon stopped shipping in plastic envelopes. I could go on…..

  8. I'm really liking this video series, well done Erin and REI! I don't know why the US lags so far behind on some of these issues, but I know part of the reason the US uses 1 bag per person per day is because they double bag everything at my local store if I forget my reusable bags!

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