Zirpoli: Our world being poisoned by plastic

Has anyone else noticed the trash — mostly plastic bags — along the highways and roads lately? It is disturbing to drive along Md. 140 between Westminster and Baltimore and see all the trash along the side of the road and on the island between the westward and eastward bound lanes.

It isn’t just 140. Many of the roads around Carroll County and beyond are littered with trash, especially plastic. They are on the ground and hanging from the bushes and trees. Has the state and county given up on the idea of picking up trash along our roads? It certainly looks that way. Yet, in their defense, why do we need to depend on the state or county to clean up after our carelessness. I’d rather see our tax dollars used to improve our schools for our children, not cleaning up our messes.


Studies in India — noted for their trashy environment — have found that once an area becomes trashy, people don’t think twice about throwing their waste on the ground and littering increases. This does not bode well for our future when you think of the amount of plastic bags alone we use in the United States. The Associated Press stated that in New York state alone, an estimated 23 billion plastic bags are used per year. Multiplied by 50 states, that’s a lot of plastic waste.

Some states, like Maryland, have or are considering a ban on single-use plastic bags in an effort to curb our plastic pollution. Maryland is also considering a ban on Styrofoam, another environmental polluter. California instituted a ban on single-use plastic bags in 2016. New York and Hawaii are considering the same. This is a good idea. With the availability of reusable grocery bags — sold at most grocery stores —there isn’t a need for most of these plastic bags. Many proposed state bans on single-use plastic bags exempt restaurants who could still use plastic for takeout orders or newspaper companies who could still use plastic to deliver the newspaper to your home.

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Please bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store and say “No, thanks” when offered a plastic one. Repeat when offered a plastic straw at restaurants.

We can do better and we must do better if we want to save our environment and food chain for our children and grandchildren. Of course, the plastic bag industry is against the idea of banning their product. They could help, however, by developing alternatives or biodegradable bags. Instead, they continue to build more plastic bag factories.

Plastic bags are not recycled in most of Maryland. Most of them end up in the trash and landfills. Many end up in our oceans where they are killing fish and mammals. In the last year, whales have washed up on the shores of Italy, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and Spain with stomachs filled with plastics. A whale found in Italy had 49 pounds of plastic in her stomach. One that washed up in the Philippines had 88 pounds of plastic inside its stomach. Scientist conducted a necropsy and found that the whale died of starvation and dehydration. The World Fund for Nature (WFN) stated: “This is yet another painful reminder of the devastating impact that plastic pollution is having on our oceans and the terrible damage it is causing to marine life.”

It isn’t just marine life that is suffering from plastic poisoning. Birds found dead around the world have been studied and found with stomachs full of plastic. Like the whales, they are dying of starvation and dehydration. The WFN predicted that the amount of discarded plastic garbage will continue to increase if we don’t take action.

How will plastic pollution impact our ocean food chain when we find that most of the fresh fish we are catching for consumption contain plastics? This will have a devastating impact on the fishing industry.

There is no magic bullet to get us out of this problem. But we must first agree it is a problem to solve. We all need to decrease the amount of plastic we use, especially single-use plastics such as straws and plastic grocery bags. The same goes for Styrofoam cups at the water cooler — use a regular cup you keep at the office. Return to paper bags that can be recycled. Technology may save us if we can develop a biodegradable plastic and other alternative products that may yet keep us from drowning in our own garbage.

If anyone wants to get a group together, or already has a group, to pick up trash along our community roads and highways, let us know. I’m happy to volunteer. I’ve already found a group that volunteers to remove plastic trash from the bay around Baltimore. We all need to get involved to make a difference.