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It’s time to Refuse and Remove!

Posted Sep 26 2008 3:20pm

A message from my friend J who I introduced to you before here. Listen up! We all know Reduce/Reuse/Recycle, now it’s time to move on to Refuse and Remove:

Last week on Coastal Cleanup Day a half million volunteers in dozens of countries all over the world spread out along beaches, lakes, rivers and creeks and removed thousands of tons of trash.

Just for the fun of it.

All along our shores local organizations joined the effort and made the coast shine, the way it should.

If you were one of those people, thank you. And if you know one of them, please thank them for cleaning up our mess.

These kinds of efforts make a difference for obvious, and less obvious, reasons.

Removing trash from the environment prevents it from contaminating our waters, marring the natural beauty of our coasts and strangling or starving ocean wildlife, such as the leatherback turtles, migratory birds and fish.

Participating in cleanups also opens our hearts and minds to the impact of wasteful and careless aspects of our society. Globally, we consume about a trillion plastic bags and a similar number of plastic bottles each year. Most are not recycled. Many end up loose in the environment.

Spread out, those bags and bottles would cover the entire state of California. Twice.

Up to 80% of trash picked up on our beaches is disposable, single-use plastic. Stuff we really don’t need.

Thanks to musician Jack Johnson, my kids know the three R’s of plastic: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. But these days, we’ve added two more: Refuse and Remove.

The best way to keep plastic out of our ocean and the stomachs of sea turtles is to refuse it whenever possible, dispose of it properly when you must use it, and help remove the stuff that slips through the cracks before it does harm.

As individuals, we can easily reuse glass or metal water bottles, bring our own cups, carry a bamboo spork and stash reusable bags here and there for those times we need to carry things. In our communities we can champion efforts to ban wasteful non-biodegradable single-use plastic and foam containers. And we can support legislation that will help keep our ocean, beaches and river clean for future generations.

The U.S. can be a leader, at home and abroad, on these issues. Let’s rise above plastic and show the world how it’s done.

I promise, you won’t miss plastic: water tastes better from a glass bottle.

And the sea turtles, the beach cleanup teams and the kids will thank you.

Join the campaign to Rise Above Plastic at

Dr. Wallace J. Nichols is a scientist, activist, author and father living in Davenport, CA.

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