While plastics, including Styrofoam, have many valuable uses, our society has become accustomed to single-use or disposable plastics, with severe environmental consequences. Almost half of all plastic manufactured is designed to be used only once and then thrown away, and less than 10 percent of plastic is recycled, with the rest ending up in our landfills and environment.
Plastic waste generated in coastal regions like Key West is most at risk of entering our oceans. Each year, 11 million metric tons of plastic waste are in our bays, beaches, and sea. Even plastic discarded inland can find its way to the sea, whether blown by the wind, swept into storm drains connected to ocean outfalls, or carried to the bay by our canal system.
Once in the ocean, plastic waste is difficult, if not impossible, to remove. Further, plastic does not "break down" in the environment but does break up. Sunlight, wind, and wave action break plastic waste into small non-biodegradable particles called microplastics, which spread throughout the water column and wreak havoc on the marine food chain.
Plastic waste is now so pervasive in our environment that it can be detected in our food chain, water supply, and even the air we breathe. You don't have to look far to see the unsightly impacts of plastic waste littering our environment.
The solution is to prevent plastic from entering our waters in the first place. You can be part of the solution by joining Plastic Free Key West.