Why Do Fish Eat Plastic?


When you enjoy a bite of fish, you’re probably not thinking about what your food spent its life eating. Now, however, you may need to.

Researchers have found that over 50 species of fish consume plastic trash in the ocean. Because the plastic does not fully biodegrade, it becomes absorbed into their body tissue and accumulates over time. Although plastic does not generally kill the fish that eat it, it does have other negative health effects, such as reduced liver functionality and reduced overall activity.

This becomes an issue for humans because when we eat a fish with plastic in its system, that plastic is likely to accumulate in our bodies, too.

Plastic in the ocean is a well-documented environmental problem. What we don’t understand as well is why fish are drawn to eat the plastic in the first place. One study shows that smell may be a key factor.

In the experiment, anchovies responded to the smell of plastic debris in their seawater just as they did to floating krill (their typical food) and actual plastic debris — with movements indicating they were searching for food. The anchovies perceive the smell of plastic debris as a potential food signal. This doesn’t tell us exactly why they are eating the plastic. However, it does tell us that the appearance and smell of plastic is confusing to them, so they are likely to continue eating it if it remains in their habitat.

Toss Your Shredded Paper


Shredded paper is a disposal conundrum! Because of how tiny it is, it cannot be placed in the recycling. It will either jam up the machines at the recycling facility or slip through the paper separator and end up in the trash. Because of this, toss all shredded paper in the garbage.

Ultimately, the best way to solve the shredded paper conundrum is to limit how much paper you shred in the first place. Only shred the portions of papers that contain sensitive information.

The Next Time You Go Camping, Skip the Trash — Here’s How


There’s nothing like a trip into the great outdoors to help you unwind, reset and reconnect with Mother Nature. Unfortunately, a camping trip can also create a lot of waste, which isn’t so good for her.

In Yosemite National Park alone, visitors generate 2,200 tons of garbage annually. That’s the pound-for-pound equivalent of about 15 blue whales.

The good news is that you don’t have to give up on your time in nature to reduce the waste you leave behind. Instead, try these tips to reduce your footprint the next time you’re venturing outdoors — you’ll even save money in the long run.

1. Leave excess packaging at home. Bring as little packaging on your trip as possible. Toss as much as you can before you leave home — this way, you won’t risk accidentally leaving it behind as litter. You can also reduce the amount of packaging waste you generate in the first place by avoiding single-use items such as water bottles, and opting for products that come in bulk or that use minimal packaging to begin with.

2. Refill as much as you can. Bring reusable and refillable items on your trip instead of disposable ones. Reusable bags, travel mugs, cookware, food containers and utensils will all save on waste. You can even refill cooking gas canisters. Find a retailer such as Ace Hardware or REI who will refill your gas canisters through the Refuel Your Fun program.

3. Recharge as much as you can. Choose electronics that run on rechargeable batteries instead of ones that require disposable batteries. Lanterns, flashlights and headlamps tend to come in both varieties, and it’s easy to pack portable chargers to keep them running instead of relying on fresh batteries that will soon need to be tossed.

4. Pack out trash. This is easier said than done. A lot of folks are tempted to leave some item or other on the trail or in the wilderness that won’t biodegrade quickly — or ever. You can avoid this by packing a couple of bags to collect your trash and recycling, and remember not to feed leftover food to wild animals.

5. Dispose of items correctly. Rules for recycling and disposal are different in every area, so either check for information on a local website or look for clear signage at disposal bins. Otherwise, you can always bring your waste home with you to dispose of correctly there.

6. Donate unwanted gear. Some people will leave unneeded gear roadside when they don’t need it after a camping trip. Even if there are items that you can’t bring home with you due to flight restrictions or other reasons, consider donating them to a local organization instead of abandoning them outside. You can avoid this problem in the future by renting gear you don’t want to keep instead of buying it.

What Is Plastic?


Everyone has been talking about plastic lately, but how well do we actually understand plastic? Learn what plastic is and how it’s made by watching this video by National Geographic.

Old Dishes Are Not Recyclable — Here’s How to Get Rid Them



At some point in time, we all end up with dishes and glassware we don’t need. Some things break, others get lost, people move and needs change. Whether they’re family hand-me-downs or an incomplete set, here’s what you can do with unwanted dishes:

Toss all broken items. If dishes are broken, or have bad chips, cracks or stains, toss them. Wrap any sharp edges or pieces in newspaper, place them in a plastic bag, label them as “broken glass,” and throw them away. Broken glass is never recyclable because it’s a hazard for sanitation workers to handle it.

Glassware and Pyrex can be donated or tossed. Glassware and Pyrex are not recyclable. They have different melting points than regular glass jars and bottles, and they can contaminate an entire batch of recycled glass. Donate any items that are reusable. Otherwise, be sure to toss them.

Ceramic items can be donated or tossed. Ceramic items cannot be recycled at most facilities, though sometimes facilities that recycle bricks and concrete will recycle ceramics. If your ceramic dishes are reusable, donate them!

Vintage china can often be sold. Try selling your china to an organization such as International Association of Dinnerware Matchers or Replacements, Ltd.

Upcycle! There are dozens of ways to upcycle old dishes. Check out Pinterest for inspiration.

Summer BBQ Cheat Sheet


Planning a BBQ or picnic this summer? Check out this cheat sheet for five easy ways to green your event and reduce your footprint.

  1. Make recycling obvious. Put out a clearly marked recycling bin. Guests are more likely to recycle if visually prompted. If you compost, set out a clearly marked composting bin as well.
  1. Share leftovers to prevent food waste. In your invitation, tell your guests to bring Tupperware so that they can bring home leftovers. That way, you won’t end up with your leftovers spoiling before you can eat them all.
  1. Plan your portions. Prevent food waste by tallying up how many guests you’re expecting, how long the event will be, and plan food portions accordingly. Adults tend to eat one pound of food per meal, and children, half a pound. If you’re serving only appetizers, folks will eat about 4-6 in their first hour, and 2-3 per hour after that. If you’re serving a full meal, plan about 6-8 oz of meat per adult (a store-bought hamburger tends to run around 6 oz) in addition to side dishes. A serving of pasta salad is about one cup per person, baked beans, half a cup. For light desserts like watermelon or cookies, plan two small servings per person, or 4 oz of a cake or pie. For beverages, estimate two per person for the first hour, and one per hour after that.
  1. Serve finger food. To cut down on plates, serve foods that don’t need them. A lot of classic summer fare is handheld, including hot dogs, sandwiches, skewers, corn on the cob, fresh vegetables and watermelon.
  1. Skip disposables. Choose reusable plates, cups, utensils and napkins over disposable ones. If you’re set on disposable, choose compostable and unbleached paper or bamboo products over plastic or styrofoam ones. If you want to use plastic cups, you can either collect them for reuse, or invest in a more durable replica.

Nonprofit Tackles the Great Pacific Garbage Patch


The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch nonprofit, hopes to have most of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch removed in the next 20 years.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a floating patch of swirling plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean. It’s the largest hub of plastic debris in our oceans, approximately twice the size of Texas. While plastic floats in the ocean, it breaks down into microplastics and is eaten by wildlife. Slowly, these microplastics work their way up the food chain and into our bodies.

The Ocean Cleanup’s CEO, 23-year-old Boyan Slat, started working on a plan to remove plastic from the ocean as a teenager. After a scuba diving trip where he realized just how much plastic was in the ocean, he began working on a prototype for a high school science project. Now, with $40 million in funding, Slat plans to launch his first open ocean test from the shores of Alameda, Calif., in July 2018.

The strategy of the cleanup is to drop large, U-shaped floating tubes into the Pacific Ocean to act as trash funnels. The tubes will be 2,000 feet long and have attached nylon screens. The ocean currents will sweep plastic inside the funnels, and every two months, a garbage ship will net the plastic debris floating inside the “U” and haul it back to shore. These tubes are net-free and designed to retain plastic debris without harming wildlife.

The Ocean Cleanup estimates they will be able to collect as much as 50 percent of the plastic debris in five years, and 90 percent in 20 years.

Learn more about The Ocean Cleanup in this video from ABC7 News, or learn more about how to reduce plastic waste.