As Buddhists, our intention is to reduce suffering. We can begin on the cushion by recognizing and acknowledging our contribution to the suffering caused by plastic pollution.
Our planet is suffering from plastic pollution. Annual global production of plastic is now 335 million tons and is projected to triple by 2050. This year the US alone will discard 30 million tons of plastic and the national recycling rate, which was 9.1% in 2015 is projected to drop to 2.9% this year. In California, less than 15% of single-use plastic is recycled. What happens to the rest of it?
Regularly, dolphins, whales, turtles and birds die of starvation because their stomachs are full of plastic trash that was floating in the ocean. Such trash has created The Great Pacific Garbage Patch and is found in the deepest parts of the ocean and the most remote areas of the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Micro-plastics (clothing, cosmetics) are now being found in rain falling in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Traces of BPH plastics are found in human breast milk. PCB compounds from older plastics, now banned due to serious health risks, are still rampant in our environment.
Further, as all plastics degrade over time, they release methane, a potent greenhouse gas, thus contributing to our on-going global warming/climate crisis. Poor and developing countries have been our dumping grounds for our discarded plastic, most of which is not recyclable, biodegradable nor compostable, creating havoc in their environments.
As Buddhists, our intention is to reduce suffering. We can begin on the cushion by recognizing and acknowledging our contribution to the suffering caused by plastic pollution. Then, with mindful investigation we can:
Hopefully we will then take our practice off the cushion and act at three levels:
Being mindful of our own use of plastics.
Participating at the community level to raise awareness.
Support enacting local and state laws and regulations which will significantly decrease single use plastics.
For information about our Socially Engaged Buddhist Study Group, click here.
Sharon Rippner (firstname.lastname@example.org)