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The other, bigger 'oil spill': Your use of disposable plastic

If you thought the Gulf oil spill was bad enough, disposable plastic threatens our oceans on a massive scale. Refuse to use it.

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As the world has watched the dreadful string of attempts to stanch the flow of oil from its source a mile down in the Gulf of Mexico, it's a good time to consider ways people can make a positive difference in the ocean.

That petroleum bubbling from the seabed is used to make plastic, and, at an alarming rate, that plastic returns to the ocean as pollution.

We've all been watching the BP cam of the broken oil well. But did you know that for quite some time, cameras have logged the swirling gyre in the ocean nicknamed the Pacific Garbage Patch? Did you know that the environmental devastation Atlantic Ocean is not new?

These ocean catastrophes did not begin with a fiery explosion. They began with a disposable cup, just like the cup you likely used at that weekend barbecue.

By one estimate, the ocean has already been corrupted by 200 billion pounds of plastic pollution. Other experts estimate that we are now dumping additional billions of pounds of plastic each year.

The number continues to grow, driven by our ever-increasing consumption of things like plastic toothbrushes, toys, and combs, and single-use items like plastic bags, bottles, and straws.

Whatever happened to that mantra "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle"? Today the recycling part of that has taken off somewhat. But is it too little, too late? A placebo, a myth?

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