It’s Not About Litter

I’ve been mulling over how to approach this blog post for about a week now. Why? Because, quite frankly, I haven’t been sure of what to say.

This post, to nobody’s surprise, is about plastic. I talk about plastic all the time though, and a lot of people already know about the plastic pollution problem on Midway Atoll. So what’s my angle?

Let’s start at the beginning and how I came to find myself a little befuddled by plastic. See, I got frustrated. Again, no surprise there. I’m constantly frustrated by plastic. Not so much plastic itself, because in all honesty, it’s a pretty crazy substance. No, I got frustrated by our society’s utter reliance and addiction to a material that is so readily disposed of, despite being made to last. From there, I started getting upset. Seeing all this stuff on Midway is like being punched in the face, repeatedly (not fun). Stepping over bottle cap after bottle cap on my way to work or finding 442 pieces of random plastic inside of one Laysan Albatross chick, as one visiting scientist found just makes you say, over and over again, “What is going on here?”

442 plastic pieces from one Laysan Albatross chick. Horrifying? Yes.

So I was upset, frustrated and had no idea how to express those emotions in a blog post that wasn’t sad, depressing or a total rant. Just when I was giving up  hope that I’d ever come up with something to write about, my friends saved the day. It started with a lively discussion of what albatross boluses were and what I was finding in them (read: plastic) and then Liz, another of the awesome volunteers here on the island broke through my writers block: it’s not about litter.

That’s it. This issue, this plastic pollution epidemic we’re currently in the midst of is totally not about litter. Well, OK, yes, on a certain level, litter is the reason there is so much pollution, but I’m thinking larger scale here. The problem is about how society has evolved to where people may recycle every little thing but we don’t realize that the cap from that bottle we threw in the blue bin could still end up in the stomach of an albatross. We have this dependency on a material that doesn’t just go away but somehow we as a country, as a global population, we’ve gotten into this “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” mentality and we’re stuck there. The stuff I see all over the place here on Midway isn’t litter – it’s evidence of how disposable and disconnected our lifestyles have become.

Caught in the act: Evidence of our wasteful ways.

When did we lose the ability to realize that everything we do has an impact somewhere?

Today  is Independence Day and along with celebrating our freedom as a country…why not try breaking free from the all-consuming,  materialistic world we live in and enjoy a day free of excess? We’re so lucky to have this planet, so why are we trashing it?

Fly away from the waste!

One thought on “It’s Not About Litter

  1. Hi Elizabeth,
    We don’t have the opportunity to see what’s going on first hand but, like you, a group of families on the Gold Coast, Australia, are fed up with what’s going and have started a campaign called ‘Yeskandoo’ which is pretty Australian – Can you make your life less plastic? Yes, can do!
    We’re up and running (for 5 days now!) and as depressing as it must be for you at times, I just wanted you to know that we are doing our bit here and hopefully more. If only we can make our region (and Australia, imagine!) a single use plastic bottle free zone and deal with all the other plastic along the way too. I want to share with you a song –
    My beautiful kids and a few friends out this together last weekend.
    Hope you enjoy and thank you from all of us here for what you are doing!
    Kind regards,
    P.S. Our website isn’t up yet but FB is underway.


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