Saturday, November 7, 2009

Our Disappearing Coral Reefs

By Frank Enzo

The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia is home to the largest and most diverse ecosystem on the planet. Its vast coral reefs span 133 thousand square miles and is crucial to the survival of many species. It is currently estimated that as much as one third of the reef has experienced coral decline due to pollution, agricultural runoff, predators and climate change. With coral reefs disappearing at a rate of five times greater than our rainforests, the future looks bleak for many species.

Although pollution is not the only factor involved in the reduction of coral populations, it is hard not to be moved by over a million sea birds and marine mammals that die each year from plastic ingestion. Often mistaken as food, plastic debris clogs digestive systems and even trace amounts can be fatal. Polystyrene (Styrofoam™), also wreaks havoc among animals both land and sea. Once in the environment, these materials can remain for hundreds and even thousands of years before they photo-degrade or break down from the elements.

So what can we do to help? Besides the obvious choice of paper verses plastic, there are a number of ways we can all pitch in. Straws for starters, are unnecessary for hydration and are responsible for millions of tons of plastic that ends up in our landfills. As taxpayers, we also pay for both the transportation and storage of this material. Plastic bags though stronger than paper, can now be produced from bioplastics but are sadly more often than not, only available over the Internet.

In the United States alone, 40 billion plastic utensils are disposed of annually. Likewise, disposable cups, plates and bowls are often found littering our neighborhoods and parks. Regardless of how responsible a person tries to be, packing popcorn and other man-made products will always fall out of garbage pails and blow away from recycling bins and waste dumps. Although we cannot prevent every eventuality, what ends up in our lakes and oceans is something we can control.

With advancements in technology, we now have the ability to produce biodegradable packaging material (biodegradable peanuts), sugar cane plates/bowls/cups, biodegradable and compostable trash bags and even biodegradable utensils made from corn starch bioplastics. As consumers, we have the power to influence the market and purchase more eco-friendly products. Buying just recycled items does not solve the problem because a recycled trash bag is still made of a non-biodegradable material. For true change to occur, we must abstain from purchasing non-biodegradable products whenever possible and spread the word about biodegradable alternatives. Until word gets out about the benefits of biodegradable products, most consumers will never even know they have a choice.

Although biodegradable products may be a little costlier and harder to find, we are at a cross-road that cannot be ignored. We can pretend there is no problem and support wasteful practices or we can stand up for what is right and set new standards for a better tomorrow.

For more information on biodegradable utensils, biodegradable bags, packaging materials and other eco-friendly products, go to

Styrofoam™ is a trademark of The Dow Chemical Company

Frank Enzo is a contributing author and programmer for, a service of Haskell New York Inc. (established 1928).

Article Source:

No comments:

Post a Comment