The Stern Plastic Epidemic

By: Sarah Brill  |  August 27, 2019

Science and Technology

By Sarah Brill, Sci-Tech Editor

Every year, Americans send 38 billion plastic bottles to landfills, and every second of every day, 1,500 plastic bottles are thrown away. 129 million plastic bottles are thrown away per day and 30% of these bottles make it to recycling. So, what is Stern doing to help control the overuse of plastic? One may say that because our campus recycles, we are doing our part to limit the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills. Unfortunately, this naive perspective does nothing to shift the attitudes at Stern about the plastic crisis. 

Last semester, straws were unavailable for student use for about a week, and as a result, approximately 172,916 straws were not disposed of on beaches, where every year, 8.3 billion straws pollute them. But the lack of straws was not done purposely to create a more environmentally friendly Stern environment. They were merely unavailable. I was in awe to see how many Stern students were distraught about this coffee-drinking technicality. Not only do Stern students place straws in their iced coffee drinks, they place it in their Snapples, juices, and even hot coffee beverages. 

But straws aren’t the only issue. Plastic water bottles are in high demand at Stern for a trivial reason – the reusable ones must be cleaned. When this topic is brought up to many Stern women, they dismiss it as if it is not a concerning issue. While this is not the case for all students, many are still ignorant to the fact that plastic affects the rivers, beaches, and streams of the world, and if it is not dealt with accordingly, it will destroy wildlife. 

In Deuteronomy 25:4, G-d says not to “muzzle an ox that thrashes.” This can be interpreted as “do not do more harm, as harm is already being done.” In today’s ecosystem, plastic straws are stuck inside turtles’ noses and plastic beer rings are found inside of seagulls’ guts.

As Jews and citizens of the world, we have an obligation not to contribute to the “thrashing” and to take steps to provide a future for our grandchildren and the generations that follow. To ensure a livable ecosystem, we must notice that we are not the only creatures that wander, and that we are surrounded by non-human life. The next time you go for a straw, reach for a plastic water bottle, or purposely fail to recycle, just know that you are contributing to the destruction of our planet. 

Photo: Pixabay