The plastic monster is real | Opinion


I would not have believed it. I’d read about it, sure. But to see it on an American beach? Naw.

Yet there it was. Gobs of plastic washed up on the beach in Key West. In Paradise! Bottles of every size, shape and color and even more bottle caps. Food containers. Milk jugs. Oil cans. Whiskey bottles. Bags, wrappers, plates and utensils. Ropes. Even dish drainers. We’d had a strong wind and high tide the night before, and on this blustery morning my customary beach walk became a chore.

I picked up plastic. And plastic. And more plastic.

Each time I filled up my arms and hands — and the plastic bag I was now carrying — I would walk to a nearby trash barrel and dump my load. On my return walk, there already would be more plastic washed up. Up and down my little stretch of beach I walked, but I never caught up. There was plastic lying there when I left.

Here’s the thing. It’s not just in Florida or even the oceans. Float down the local Little River or simply walk the banks of the Greenbelt Lake. The stuff is everywhere.

The unsightliness of it is bad enough. Who wants to live alongside a trash heap? But it’s more than aesthetics. It’s the way plastics are ravaging the environment. They’re killing the fish, turtles and waterfowl. Breaking down into small particles that can’t even be seen but wind up in the food we eat.

And tha’s the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

A new book by renowned scientist Shanna Swan (“Count Down”) suggests that the endocrine disrupting chemicals in plastic may actually be threatening our future as a species. Much like DDT did to bald eagles.

No, dear reader, this is not some far-flung liberal fantasy. Forget The Handmaiden’s Tale. This is about a dramatic — and frightening — drop in fertility (egg quality, sperm count, number of miscarriages, etc.) and one of the leading hypotheses for why it is occurring.

The fertility of American and European males has fallen by 59% since I graduated from high school in 1973. That’s the cold, hard truth as we country music fans like to say. Scientists are arguing about why, but Swan’s theory about endocrine-disrupting chemicals may be right. If it is, it’s the most compelling reason — among a lot of other compelling reasons — we should finally get serious about ending our addiction to plastic. Just think. The long-term answer for the tens of thousands of American couples who have difficulty conceiving each year could be a glass bottle instead of an expensive fertility specialist.

Honestly, the switch from plastics shouldn’t be that difficult. Fifty years ago, if you had told a group of investors you were going to start putting water in plastic bottles and selling it for more than you pay for gasoline, they would have laughed you…



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