Your Views: Time to reduce plastic use

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Plastic grocery bags are not recycled in Alexandria, but can be dropped off at a bag recycling container available at most grocery stores. But to avoid making the extra trip, consider bringing reusable shopping bags with you — leave them in the car for easy access. (file photo)
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To the editor:

Do you ever watch old movies in amazement when the characters are smoking on a plane? Or how about the scene in “Mad Men” when Don Draper and family just toss their picnic trash aside without a care in the world? It is my hope that when our grandkids watch movies from today they will be equally amazed at the people drinking out of single use plastic bottles and using plastic straws, stirrers and shampoo bottles with abandon.

Plastic pollution is an issue that affects all of us – whether you believe in climate change or not. Step outside and see how long you can walk before you see that plastic bag, cap, bottle or straw. You won’t get far.

I walk along the Potomac several days a week. What used to be a relaxing stroll to clear my mind now sends me into a tailspin as I spy the plastic trash lining the shore – it’s everywhere. Seriously, once you start noticing it, you can’t stop. Plastic can be found at the highest and lowest points on the planet – Mt. Everest and the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean where a plastic bag was recently found.

We have been fooled into believing we can toss our plastic into the recycling bin and it will be recycled, and that all is fine and good. Actually only 9 percent of the plastic ever produced has been recycled. That means that every piece of plastic you have used in your lifetime – toothbrush, toy, straw, cup, bag, saran wrap, pen or packaging – is most likely still in existence in some form or another on this planet.

It can take up to 1,000 years for plastic to decompose in a landfill. While it decomposes it breaks into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics which harm our environment and its inhabitants.

The recycling system is broken. Since 2018, China is no longer accepting the world’s plastic trash. We know the mantra: reduce, reuse, recycle. Notice that recycle is actually the last resort. We must reduce con- sumption and reuse when possible.

Refill is another option. Several zero-waste grocery stores, such as Mom’s Organic Market, are popping up which allow you to bring in your container and refill them with soap, detergent and shampoo.

You can make simple changes to reduce your plastic output:

• Carry a refillable water bottle. Seek out and use water bottle filling stations. A shout out to National Airport, the Alexandria YMCA, Orangetheory and T.C. Williams High School.

• Bring your own mug to Starbucks and receive a 10-cent discount. Or try ordering a “for here” mug.

• Bring your own bags to the grocery store. If you are only buying a pack of gum from CVS, skip the bag altogether.

• Choose aluminum foil over saran wrap.

• Buy loose produce or use compostable produce bags found at Trader Joe’s and other stores.

• Bring your empty detergent bottles to Mom’s Organic Market for a refill.

• Patronize restaurants that are committed to sustainability. One example is Cava, which sells aluminum water bottles rather than single use plastic ones.

Do your part – the Earth is what we all have in common.

-Stacy Sloan, Alexandria

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