Recently, a plastic awareness weekend was held in Viroqua, which I attended. As a person who tries to care for the earth, I did not realize the serious state of plastic pollution. This focused weekend made me so much more aware. On Friday evening, I watched the movie which showed how much pollution plastic has become, especially in the ocean. Plastic does not decompose for 500 to 1,000 years. Instead it breaks into sharp edged pieces that are eaten by seabirds and other ocean creatures. The movie showed birds who died on shore. Scientists opened their stomachs to find piles of broken pieces of plastic from things like lighters, bottles and cups – multicolored and sharp edged. These birds had no room for anything that would nourish them and their stomachs were being chewed up by the plastic pieces. It is estimated that 90 percent of seabirds have plastic in their stomach.

The scientists also took fine nets and drug them through parts of the ocean that looked pristine and picked up small micro-particles of plastic. Besides the big vortexes of plastic debris boats run across in the ocean, it seems much of the ocean has these small micro-particles of plastic as well.

Our use of plastic has increased hugely in the last 10 years and is a total threat to our ocean life. Many third world countries have no good way to care for garbage including plastics. But their use is very high because it is cheap. Humanitarian focus, on helping them with this, could help reduce the plastic in the ocean as well.

Because of this plastic awareness weekend, I have become very conscious of plastic I use. Plastic lighters could be exchanged for matches, cups should be paper, not plastic or Styrofoam, water can be put in my camp water cooler rather than buy a plastic jug of water. There are many challenges to changing, but I am now very aware and looking for other ways.

There is also the challenge of talking to stores, restaurants and business to begin to get away from plastic. Perhaps our tariffs on China will help us on this level (ha!).

Thank you to all who put this weekend of events on. The awareness will remain with me the rest of my life and I will change things as I can.

Jane Siemon, Viroqua

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