The Usual or Reusable

By: Halie Childress (Art Director)
Small, almost clear creatures called jellyfish float around on the coast of Puerto Rico. There are similar “creatures” on the coast of Florida, but they are man-made and are hurting our environment.

Small, almost clear creatures float around on the coast of Puerto Rico. They have a mean sting, and can be almost impossible to see coming; Jellyfish. Another “creature” similar to the jellyfish floats on our shores, yet not on Puerto Rico’s. That “creature” would be plastic bags. Why does Puerto Rico not have plastic bags floating in their shores, you might ask. That would be because they have banned the use of single-use plastic bags.

California, Hawaii, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Oregon, and Vermont have all banned single use plastic bags, according to The National Conference of State Legislature. Why has Florida not followed its fellow brothers? Ms. Fagan, Nease’s marine biology teacher, said “The people holding the purse strings, to them, it’s all about the economy, it’s more important than the environment.” Marine life, particularly turtles and other jellyfish-eating creatures, mistake the plastic bags for a meal. Once ingested it can make it difficult to swallow, and the bags are not able to be digested. This can kill the turtles, which is an already endangered species. Does our economy run on the production of plastic bags? No, but it is cheaper to make plastic bags instead of paper or reusable. By how much? Sometimes only 5-10 cents. Although it adds up, I believe in the long run it will be worth it. The planet will be cleaner, the animals will be healthier, and the humans will be happier. 

How can you, a student at Nease High School, help? Try paper or reusable bags. Although it costs nothing in Florida, as a customer, to use plastic bags, it’s better for the environment. Reusable cotton bags can retail for a dollar to three, and you use it for much longer than a plastic one. Phys.org claims that one cotton reusable bag can be used 7,100 times! Gracie Harris, an avid beach cleaner and future marine biologist, said “I try to use reusable bags because something that is going to be used for thirty seconds will stay on this planet for my entire life.” This is partially true. Plastic bags break down, and according to The Center for Biological Diversity it can take 500 years for a bag to decompose enough so we can’t see it, but not completely. The bags are not biodegradable, they only break down so much. The plastics break down into what are called “micro-plastics” or really really tiny plastic particles no one can see. This can get into fish, who would not usually eat jellyfish, and then that fish can end up on someone’s plate; and long story short the person has now ingested tiny pieces of plastic.

My goal here is to not make you afraid of eating seafood, but rather to understand that Florida, which is surrounded by an ocean on three sides, needs to ban single-use plastics. It not only harms the ocean, but it can harm humans too. Switching to reusable bags and paper bags won’t be hard either. Every time you check out at Publix, they ask if you want paper or plastic. They even have reusable bags you can buy at check out. Fellow panthers, let’s join together and save the environment. All we have to do is step out of our usual routine and tell the cashier, “I’ll take the reusable ones please.”

Photo Caption: One of many pieces of plastic on one of many beaches in Florida.

Credit: Gracie Harris