Dramatic images have been going viral on social media showing our planet -- specifically our ocean -- in the grips of a serious plastic pollution crisis.
And while our federal and state governments have yet to address the issue with any significant legislation, this coming month, a global initiative called Plastic Free July is helping all of us make a difference.
A tsunami of plastic waste washed up on the shores of Brazil’s Sao Conrado Beach in Rio de Janeiro, while on a beach is Guatemala, you can’t even see the ocean.
The cleanup company 4Ocean shared the video with Local 10 News to show us the harsh reality of our global plastic consumption.
And while the images are shocking, it is the U.S. that consumes and disposes of more plastic than any other country, and you don’t have to look hard to see the impact right here in South Florida.
“It’s like a firehose of plastic every day and it doesn’t go away,” Dania Beach resident Emily Robinson said.
From the sands of Dania Beach to the shores of Biscayne Bay, pollution is seen everywhere.
“It is unbelievable to me to see how addicted we are to plastic and how we continue to ignore the problem,” said Sophie Ringle, founder of Clean Miami Beach.
Clean Miami Beach picked up all the plastic strangling the mangroves of Pine Tree Park last weekend, but the group has to organize two to three cleanups a week to try to keep our shores looking clean.
And with less than 9% of all plastic being recycled, is it any wonder our planet is in the grips of a pollution crisis?
“Recycling does not work. We cannot keep up with the amount of plastic that’s produced now and will be in the future, so we have to just reduce it at the source,” said Catherine Uden, of Oceana.
Uden is the regional representative for Oceana, a conservation non-profit lobbying for more plastic regulation, but the state of Florida won’t allow it and has banned cities and counties from banning plastic.
The forecast is ominous.
“Right now, plastic production is expected to quadruple,” Uden said. “Obviously the more plastic production we have, the more plastic you’re going to see in the environment.”
That’s why it is us, the consumers, who must step up.
This coming month is Plastic Free July, a global campaign that launched in Australia 11 years ago, engaging the entire planet to commit to using less plastic.
“It might seem very overwhelming to the average consumer to do anything about it, but there are very easy, simple tips that you can do on an everyday basis to make a big difference,” said Caiti Waks, co-founder of Debris Free Ocean
Stop drinking plastic-bottled water, get a reusable container and fill it with filtered or tap water, say no to all plastic bags and shop with your own canvas ones.
“You can get reusable bags that are machine washable,” Waks said.
While the grocery store can be challenging as everything comes packaged in plastic, there are plastic-free options right here in South Florida.
“We don’t use any plastic. Everything is reusable,” The Rounds general manager Alan Bebchik said.
The Rounds is a zero waste delivery service of household essentials, bringing all kinds of goods right to your doorstep without all that wasteful packaging.
“We want to make it easy for people to be sustainable,” Bebchik said.
There’s also Verde Market, where you can buy in bulk at three different locations from Fort Lauderdale to South Miami by bringing your own containers and refilling them.
“We have more than 250 products from food, household products, laundry detergent, dish soap, fabric softener (and) multipurpose cleaner,” said Verde Market founder Pamela Barrera.
The trick is to start one or two ways to reduce your plastic footprint and go from there.
So come on, take the pledge and make July plastic free. Your planet will thank you for it!
“It has to be now. There’s no time to lose,” Barrera said.
The goal of Plastic Free July is to get you to see how easy it is to greatly reduce your plastic consumption and to keep up your new habits even after the month is over.
To find out how you can make a difference, visit the following links: