Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
Published 8:00 a.m. MT Sept. 15, 2019
Plastics have made our lives simpler, easier, and cheaper. Yet the price the planet pays for these conveniences may last a lot longer than the quick use of a disposable fork with your fast food delivery, or the single-use disposable water or soda bottle we have all become accustomed to.
“Even at our facility, the sheer amount of plastic we receive daily is staggering,” said Patrick Peck, director of South Central Solid Waste Authority, partner to the City of Las Cruces in managing the disposal of solid waste.
It’s a conversation happening at a state-wide level with the Rio Grande Recycling Corridor – a group composed of agencies from Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Las Cruces, and El Paso – that is challenging how we think about recycling by making sure that recyclables are “Recycled Right” and don’t end up at the landfill if at all possible.
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Las Cruces Sustainability Officer Lisa LaRocque has held “listening sessions” with a cross-section of groups across the community and notes overall optimism.
“Las Cruces residents are recognizing a need to be sensitive to our disposable lifestyles,” said LaRocque. “We’ve done surveys that suggest that more than 70 percent of people know that plastic doesn’t just disappear when they’re done using it. The single-use throw-away mentality is slowly losing its hold.”
However, lots of damage has already been done.
Shards of plastic are being found in ice cores drilled in the Arctic. U.S. researchers in the Northwest Passage drew 18 ice cores of up to two meters in length from four locations and saw visible plastic beads and filaments of various shapes and sizes. The scientists say the findings reinforce the observation that microplastic pollution appears to concentrate in ice relative to seawater.
Previous to that discovery, the touch of plastic was found in the deepest place on Earth, in the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench.
Video footage from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration captured images of garbage — single-use plastics bags, to be specific — on the bottom of the earth’s deepest ocean trench more than 10 kilometers below the surface.
The Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology reported that among all the forms of man-made debris in the ocean — including fishing gear, metal, glass, rubber and other materials — clearly visible plastics make up about 33 percent of the total.
“Recycling may not help what is already in the farthest reaches of our planet,” said Peck, “but increasing our efforts to curb plastics consumption now can help reduce the mess we’ll see in the future.”
Green Connections is submitted by the South Central Solid Waste Authority, which manages solid waste, recyclables, and works to stop illegal dumping for residents and businesses throughout Doña Ana County. Contact the SCSWA at (575) 528-3800 or visit www.SCSWA.net.
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