The shredded plastic shopping bag caught on a fence or shrub is just the tip of the iceberg in an ocean of icebergs. One obstacle to raising awareness of the environmental and health costs associated with plastics is their invisibility. The amount of plastic accumulating in the environment has significantly increased in the past 15 years, but we seem to have grown numb to the waste.

The petrochemical industry reports that the world produced 260 million tons of plastics in 2016, and 460 million tons per year by 2030 — continuing the steep increase in output. The industry is reluctantly admitting that its products pose serious environmental problems. Public outcry is growing, and leaders are now forced to consider the future of single-use product disposal. One strategy is small niche recycling, which does not require changing the chemical structure of the material, although all recycling releases toxic materials.

Carol Armstrong’s experience with plastic pollution is as Secretary of the Friends of Heinz Refuge, a frequent stream monitor, a PennState Ext. Master Watershed Steward and as a member of her town’s Environmental Advisory Committee.

Lana Gulden is Chair of Susquehanna Valley Progress and is involved with a number of environmental and civic organizations.

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