Dilemma: Got a Six-Pack and Nothing to Do?

Q: I’ve always heard that we should cut up our plastic six-pack rings into tiny bits so that they don’t strangle ocean wildlife if they get washed out to sea.  Is this still true? Wouldn’t the six-pack holders wind up in a landfill instead of the ocean? 

A: It’s true that many six-pack rings do end up in landfills, but that doesn’t mean they won’t make it to the ocean eventually.  In fact, 80 percent of marine debris comes from land-based sources like sewer overflows and landfills. Plastics pose problems for sea life because they aren’t biodegradable, often remaining in oceans for years at a time, and six-pack rings are especially troublesome because of their stringy shape. Millions of birds, turtles, and fish  ingest or become entangled in debris each year, and animals ensnared in six-pack holders and other garbage often drown or lose limbs. Many plastics also contain toxic chemicals that cause reproductive failure, starvation, infection, or even death if they’re eaten. Plus, they also harm habitats like coral reefs and seagrass beds.

Obviously, cutting up the rings is just one small step toward protecting sea life. But it’s still worth doing. (The EPA recommends it, too.) And if snipping up the detritus from your six-pack of Blatz strikes you as too insignificant an effort, consider additional steps like reducing waste by reusing and recycling, choosing products with minimal amounts of packaging, or participating in beach cleanup projects. 

Issue 25

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