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  • Viroqua Plastic Free

A Bedtime Story - The Tale of Ten Plastic Bottles

Once upon a time there were ten plastic bottles. They had been purchased at grocery stores, Wal-Marts and gas stations in a town very much like Viroqua. They contained water, juice and milk. For a very short amount of time, the people who purchased these bottles enjoyed drinking the beverages they contained. But now they were ready to be discarded.

One unlucky plastic bottle was picked up by a garbage truck and driven to a special building where plastic is burned called an incineration plant. It was melted and turned into smoke that contained some nasty chemicals that aren’t good for animals or people. These nasty chemicals floated in the air until it rained. Then the nasty chemicals hopped a ride on the raindrops and landed back on the ground. After it stopped raining, some cows decided to eat the grass. They ate the grass, alright, but they ate the nasty chemicals right along with it. Nasty chemicals are not something cows should eat. But the cows couldn’t see the nasty chemicals and they couldn’t taste the nasty chemicals. They just thought it was grass – one of their favorite foods.

Three plastic bottles were picked up by a garbage truck and taken to the landfill. While they were being sorted, one of the plastic bottles was blown away by the wind and ended up in a mud puddle. The two plastic bottles still at the landfill were squished into a big bale of plastic along with a lot of other plastic. Because no one wanted to buy the bale of plastic, it was placed in the landfill and covered with a lot of dirt. If someone comes along in a hundred years to dig these plastic bottles up, they will look exactly the same as they did when they were buried because plastic does not break down and turn back into soil like natural products do.

The plastic bottle that was blown into a mud puddle ended up sailing down a little stream after a heavy rain. This stream flowed into a bigger creek which flowed into a river which flowed into the ocean. The current in the ocean moved it into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This is a place in the ocean where lots and lots of plastic and other garbage are gathered. The sun makes the plastic bottles become brittle and they break into pieces. These pieces become smaller and smaller and are called microplastics. They look a lot like food to tiny fish and other sea creatures. Microplastics are not food and sea creatures should not be eating them. But they looked like food and they even tasted like food, so the sea creatures were tricked into thinking they were food.

Six plastic bottles were taken to a recycling center. At the recycling center, they were sorted and put into a big container on a ship for a trip across the ocean to Asia. When they arrived in Asia, they were taken to another recycling center. Because five of the plastic bottles were dirty or mixed up with other plastics, they could not be recycled. Many Asian countries do not have laws to protect the environment, so these five plastic bottles were dumped in an open landfill or the ocean. Guess where they eventually ended up? In an ocean gyre where they broke down into tiny pieces that tricked sea creatures into thinking they were food.

Only one plastic bottle was clean enough to be taken to another building where it was ground into pellets called “nurdles.” The nurdles were melted down and formed into a new plastic bottle. This recycled plastic bottle was filled with juice and sent to a grocery store where it lived happily ever after … until it was purchased, the juice finished and it was ready to be discarded … again.

Do you think this plastic bottle will be the lucky one this time? Since nine out of the ten discarded plastic bottles were pretty unlucky, the chances are not very good. Maybe instead of drinking water, juice and milk out of plastic bottles, we should be drinking out of containers that don’t have to be discarded - like a glass, or a stainless-steel water bottle or cup.

Do you suppose that what happens to plastic bottles also happens to plastic shopping bags, plastic straws and plastic packaging once they are discarded? Getting in the habit of using a reusable shopping bag, drinking without a straw, and choosing items that are minimally packaged might be a pretty good idea.

Are you willing to make a few changes to eliminate single-use plastic forever so cows and fish and people and the Earth can live happily ever after?

Say “NO” to plastic!


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