A correction, with a little help from a friend

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Litter is terrible. It’s found on our highways, streets and parks. From there it makes its way into our streams and eventually the ocean, even from here in mid-Missouri.

A couple of weeks ago I touched on plastic pollution in the ocean as it relates to the call to ban plastic straws. In that column I acknowledged that plastic in our oceans is a major problem. My error was with the numbers that I quoted from a study I found online — “The vast majority, 86% of pollution in the ocean, comes from Asia. The number one polluter is China with 8.8 metric tons annually. The United States is at the bottom of the chart with 0.3 metric tons.”

A faithful reader of the Gasconade County Republican from North Carolina, Gene Busen called me out. He said “I don’t mean to be picky, but here I am being picky again.  Numbers just don’t seem to be your strong suit. In your paragraph about plastic pollution of the oceans, you comment ‘The United States is at the bottom of the chart with 0.3 metric tons’ (annually).  Did you realize you implied that the U.S. only introduces less than 2 pounds of plastic into the world’s oceans PER DAY?!  That hardly seems worth mentioning!  I suspect that the word “million” may have been left out of your sentence.”

Sure enough. I went back to the source of my information and Gene was right.

In my defense those were the numbers on the chart. I just forgot to read the fine print that added the word “millions.”

I’m sorry that I misled everyone. My point — which is still valid — is that the United States is at the bottom of the chart when it comes to plastic polluting our oceans. As usual we lead the way.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do more.

Both of my boys, Jacob and Ethan, were members of Boys Scouts Troop 22 here in Owensville. In scouting you learn the evils of litter. Twice a year the scouts picked up trash along a stretch of Highway 19 outside of town. We all learned how much trash that people throw out of their cars in that 2 mile stretch.

When camping we always practiced “leave no trace,” meaning we carried out all our trash. This was practiced on everything from a simple day outing to a 10 day hiking/camping trip at Philmont, a high adventure scout ranch in New Mexico.

Finally, every year our troop picked up trash each morning  during the county fair. This is a good lesson for children as well as adults. As you pick up other people’s trash and litter you see it up close and learn to hate it. 

Here are some things I found online that we can all do to help reduce the amount of plastic and trash that reaches our oceans.

1. Reduce your use of plastic products.

2. Don’t litter — mismanaged waste like litter is the number one cause of plastic garbage in the world’s oceans.

3. Recycle when you can.

4. Choose non-synthetic fabrics when possible. Studies have found that microplastics — plastic fragments less than 5 millimeters long — can get washed out of synthetic clothing, like those made of polyester or acrylic.

5. Say no to microbeads. Plastic microbeads are sometimes added as an exfoliating agent to personal care and beauty products like face scrubs, soaps and toothpaste.

6. Participate in clean-up efforts.

7. Support companies that are using out-of-the-box solutions to reduce waste.

8. Engage your family and friends.

Those are great suggestions all of us from any political party can get behind.

Number four and five were a surprise for me. A recent study of pollution in Tampa Bay found an average of one particle of microplastic for every liter -- which led to their calculation that the entire bay contains at least 4 billion particles. Those particles came from larger pieces of plastic that have partially broken down, but the most typical source in the Tampa Bay study was from fibers originating in fishing lines, nets and synthetic clothes. That’s scary.

Gene finished his email to me with this statement, “Surely some of your other readers have caught your error by now.” 

Gene, I’m afraid that you are the only one who caught my mistake. You better keep a close watch on  my “numbers” because no one else seems to, or maybe they just don’t want to take the trouble to call or email me. For my part I will try and pay closer attention.

 

https://www.foxnews.com/science/tampa-bay-4-billion-bits-microplastic

https://interestingengineering.com/7-inventions-that-are-literally-saving-our-oceans — 7 Inventions That Are Literally Saving Our Oceans

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/inventions-that-clean-the-ocean_n_5938be94e4b0b13f2c66ee01?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAACcHitrFKQlUf-WUvFEeKDGX_au8kcdrdVpAPTKMkZtHcDGkatnQxpqTCFppym1h9oRfkO_zbsUTrxjl5sZ4s7S4tynkxu8AYC1LgkOyT4OMPWB2uUXMXN5C0NRcDCA5BcRZ5KgbQMA9LUdoAU_rQYRDrtf0aORGWxEVLaLF6hQK — 3 Incredible Inventions That Are Cleaning Our Oceans

 

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