Single-use plastic shopping bags might be the best thing since sliced bread, but the disadvantages far outweigh the benefits. During the five-minute walk from the store to the car when we use a bag, it might be our savior, but in the long run, that very same bag could end up suffocating a sea turtle.
CALPIRG, a primarily student-run organization, is in the middle of a frantic attempt to alleviate this situation by lobbying to ban plastic bags in California, a state that, for all its claims to love the ocean and its surroundings, uses nearly 12 million plastic bags every year.
As students and as the future of the community, it is our responsibility to show support for this cause by helping the USC chapter of CALPIRG the best we can.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as it is sometimes known, is a dense region off the coast of California where degraded plastics, chemicals and other artificially produced debris are the dominant species.
This swirling sea of sludge contaminates the ecosystem in horrific ways, destroying the habitats and lives of thousands of marine organisms every year.
This disruption — to put it lightly — eventually ends up affecting us as well because people consume a number of these contaminated fish, ingesting of toxic substances.
By demonstrating a widespread backing of the efforts, we can send a message that the community is in favor of a major change in policy: one that doesn’t allow the chemical and plastic industries to pollute the environment without consequences. A state-wide ban, if passed, would reduce the overall plastic output and, in turn, would prevent the deaths of millions of marine creatures. CALPIRG’s Great Pacific Cleanup Campaign intends to do just that, starting with the nine chapters located at various campuses in California.
You might have seen the Plastic Bag monster fighting the Mutant Sea Turtle on campus a few weeks ago, which attempted to raise awareness about the issue and collect 9,000 petitions by the end of the semester.
Partly because of the work of CALPIRG students and their coalition partners, 14 cities and counties in California have plastic bag bans and more than 40 cities are considering proposals. Even so, unless some serious momentum builds up with regard to this issue, this ecological disaster will only continue to expand.
Showing support for local organizations trying to incite change and spreading awareness about the facts by telling friends, family and random strangers on the street are also key ways to effect change.
We might be the most resourceful creatures on this planet, but if we continue to treat the environment as our personal waste disposal system without considering the implications, it might come around to bite us in the rear.
Rasik Srinath is a junior majoring in mechanical engineering.