Recycling and using biodegradable products saves animal lives – The Brookhaven Courier

As the consumer population continues to grow, animals encounter more and more litter in their natural habitats. For humans, the impact may not seem severe, but animals are often injured or killed by the scattered debris.

Marcus Eriksen, founder of the 5 Gyers Institute, said that at least 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic float in the world’s oceans in a report published in 2014. According to Eriksen’s studies, animals mistake litter for food and suffer from stomach problems and starvation.

And microplastics have now been detected in human blood, according to an article published in Environment International.

Single-use plastics could be easily replaced by biodegradable products. “People throw away tons of single-use plastic cups, containers, and other ‘stuff’ every day,” according to Environment America’s website.

Often these single-use products are made from polystyrene foam, the type used in foam cups and take-out containers. Styrofoam can break easily, its constituent particles can remain in the environment, threatening wildlife for hundreds of years to come.

With insight into facts such as these, why has nothing been done to find a larger-scale alternative for these products? Alternatives for other problems are created every day, so why has this important problem not been solved?

Don’t get me wrong, I love a nice cold drink at a fast food restaurant, but I think the restaurant industry could do a better job of finding single-use alternatives that don’t harm animals.

If there was a better alternative to foam cups in polystyrene with a more biodegradable material, we would see a slower spread of foam particles in the environment. “Biodegradable plastics take three to six months to fully break down,” said Science Focus editor Jack Serle. “It’s much faster than the synthetic counterparts which take several hundred years.”


Another thing that Americans seem to overlook is the importance of recycling. Most likely, we’ve all been recycling here and there. However, recycling once in a while doesn’t do the job.

Beloved free-running creatures encounter soda cans and water bottles all the time. If the animals are hungry enough, they will try to eat them.

Recycling and using biodegradable products saves the precious lives of animals all over the world. Saving animal life also leads to a prosperous Earth.

When I was in sixth grade, I lived on the island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands for nine months. My stay on the island was magical and opened my eyes to the beauty of nature. People care deeply about their island, its vegetation and the animals that roam freely on land and in the sea.

On Saint John, as well as the surrounding USVI islands, residents make it a point to recycle and properly dispose of waste to preserve the beauty of the land and protect the animals.


Straws are commonplace in bars and restaurants near beaches. However, if the wind blows a loose straw, it will most likely end up near or in the ocean. A turtle or other sea life will mistake a floating straw for food, which will eventually cause them harm. In 2015, a viral video of scientists spending 10 minutes removing a plastic straw from a sea turtle’s nostril drew attention to how something as simple as a straw affects marine life.

This issue has become a concern for USVI residents and a law was passed in September 2019 banning plastic straws and drink stirrers. “The ban prohibits the importation, sale, purchase or distribution of disposable plastic straws,” according to The St. Thomas Source.

Imagine if the United States had laws like the one passed by the USVI? What if we had more awareness centered around recycling to keep harmful items away from curious and hungry animals?

With more education and efforts for proper recycling and increased use of biodegradable products, the United States could be part of a sea change that would positively impact the lives of wild animals.

There are 22 US states that are putting wildlife life ahead of consumerism by creating, passing and enforcing bills to reduce single-use plastics. If the other 28 states began the process of banning single-use plastics, our nation would begin to create a better environment for all living things.

I challenge every reader to make an effort to recycle every day and replace as many single-use items as possible with reusable or biodegradable alternatives. If we all participate a little at a time, it can make a big difference. Especially for our favorite creatures who can’t speak for themselves.

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Rozella J. Cook