I don’t know why I didn’t think about plastic before I produced this story about plastic from around the world that’s gathering and collecting in the Pacific Ocean. But now, everywhere I look and everything I touch seems to be made of plastic: this keyboard, pen, desk, the monitor in front of me, my water bottle, the phone to the left of me, the stacks of video tapes in plastic containers to the right, even the plastic office chair holding me up. But I’m not just struck by the fact that everything’s made of petroleum products. I’m stunned by the fact that I knew all the time that I was surrounded by plastic, but I’d found ways to ignore it, accept it and live with it.
Life was easier back before I did this piece. I didn’t think of albatross stomachs when I saw cigarette lighters for sale. I didn’t have to worry what to do with the plastic lid on the recycled paper cup after I drank my fair trade organic coffee. I didn’t get strange looks from the corner sandwich shop lady until I recently removed a lunch from the plastic bag she provided. I had to explain to her why I didn’t want the plastic bag she so carefully and skillfully packed with my chicken salad sandwich, cheddar cheese chips and juice (in an actual glass bottle).
I told her how plastic doesn’t go away for centuries, how it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, even nano-sized particles. I went on about how it could get into the food chain. She didn’t have an answer when I asked her if she knew what we’re doing to the ocean and the planet and our children. Plastic was the enemy and it was everywhere!
I knew I was getting carried away. But then I started thinking maybe I should get carried away. Maybe we all should get carried away, you know, talk about it, get informed about it, get angry about it, write our senators and members of Congress. But being a TV producer who’s always faced with making difficult cuts in the edit room, I knew when less was more. So I chilled out, gave her what I owed for the food and time and left a hefty tip, and started to leave. Her smile made me pause. She thanked me for telling her all about plastic. She said she’d speak to the owner about replacing the plastic bags.
Watch the Plastic in the Pacific television story online.