Earth Day is a day set aside to remind people to protect our planet. Earth Day, which is held on April 22, first started in 1970. This year, the main idea of Earth Day is to get people to use less plastic.
Plastic is so cheap, easy to make, and helpful that people and companies use it all the time. People usually do not stop to think about the plastic they use. Some people don’t worry about using plastic because many plastics can be recycled. But most plastics are not recycled. About 91% of plastic is thrown away. So where does all that plastic go?
Sadly, much of the plastic winds up in the ocean. There are several large areas in the world’s oceans which are a “soup” of floating trash. Over half of this trash comes from the plastics people throw away.
It is hard to measure the exact size of these areas, but they are huge. Scientists recently studied one of these areas, called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. They say that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is three times as large as the country of France.
The plastic already in the ocean is a big problem. The plastic can hurt animals that live in the sea. It also breaks down into microplastics which can get into our drinking water and food.
This Earth Day many people are working to keep from making these problems worse. Every year over 8 million tons of plastic goes into the oceans. That’s over 17 trillion pounds every year.
Groups trying to protect the earth are thinking hard about “single use plastics” – plastics that get used only one time. Examples of single use plastics include water or drink bottles, plastic cups, and straws. Plastic bags, plastic food wrap, and other plastic packages are also single use plastics.
Many cities and countries have tried to limit plastic bags, either by making them against the law or by making people pay for bags. Just making these changes often cuts plastic bag use by 70% or more. France, Rwanda, Kenya, and China are just a few examples of countries which have worked to get rid of plastic bags.
In other places in the world, including the UK and Europe, governments are thinking about making plastic straws and other single use plastics against the law.
But no one has to wait for a new law to change what they do. The Earth Day group has created a “calculator” that will help people think about the plastic they use and make plans to use less. They hope that people will make changes not just for Earth Day, but all year long.