Sunday, January 21, 2018

No Straws, Less Spritzes Aboard

February 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Some environmental issues are hard to tackle. It’s a hassle and an expense to sell a gas-guzzling car and replace it with an electric one, and it usually doesn’t happen at the snap of a finger. However, reducing plastic and aerosol can waste is pretty easy — you just cease using disposable straws and properly dispose of aerosol cans.

Most of us don’t think twice when we buy a canned drink at a deli or convenience store. The clerk puts it in a bag and automatically slips in a straw. And how could that sliver of plastic possibly be a big deal? According to published reports, half a million straws are thrown away daily just in the U.S. At that rate, it’s easy to see how all that plastic waste can quickly proliferate in landfills and pollute our waterways.

Aerosol cans are even more numerous. They are thrown away by the billions, posing environmental and safety problems due to their outer materials, the possibility of some contents remaining, the small size of the particles they emit, and their capability to explode when under pressure or exposed to extreme heat.

In my careless youth, I’d toss away the hairspray when it clogged, or deemed a can of something or other empty when I probably could have gotten another spritz or two out (sorry, Dad, I now know I wasted your hard-earned money). When evidence pointed to destruction of the ozone layer by such spray cans, I stopped using them completely. However, manufacturers have reconfigured aerosols since the 1970s, and nowadays many products are supplied via nozzle. From taking the staleness out of a cabin with air freshener to applying spray-on sunscreen, aerosols come in handy. It’s also not uncommon to find aerosols delivering lubricants, primers, paints, epoxies, and other products helpful for working on the boat. In addition, no matter what kind of product is sold in an aluminum or steel can, propellants are always present to boost the delivery of the product.

In order to be environmentally friendly, boaters should ensure aerosol cans are as empty as possible (never puncture a can to drain it out). Unless your municipality or marina has set up a separate aerosol can recycling method, don’t toss cans in the nearest receptacle. Consider the product — is an environmentally hazardous material such as oil still lurking inside? Dispose of it as directed for such items (if the lid is plastic, it can be properly disposed of separately, but leave the nozzle in place).

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Micro plastic fragments in the sand of a beach

By Lita Smith-Mines


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