Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?
Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?
Benjamin: Yes, I will.
Mr. McGuire: Enough said. That’s a deal.
– The Graduate, 1967
Plastics have pervaded modern society since those prescient, now-famous lines were uttered between family friend Mr. McGuire and Dustin Hoffman’s disillusioned Benjamin in The Graduate. Industry worldwide has produced more than 9 billion tons of plastic since the 1950s, with only about 9 percent recycled and almost all of it now filling landfills and polluting the landscape and waterways. That’s more than a ton of plastic garbage so far for every person on Earth.
The toll on water alone is shocking and immense, and not just at sea, but also in the Great Lakes watershed too, which we at FLOW have pledged to protect. Consider:
- Ocean plastic could triple in a decade, and by 2050 the world’s oceans are predicted to contain more plastic than fish by weight.
- The U.S. and Canada discard 22 million pounds of plastic into the waters of the Great Lakes each year. Half of the plastic dumped into the Great Lakes—11 million pounds—goes into Lake Michigan. It’s roughly the equivalent of 100 Olympic-sized swimming pools full of plastic bottles dumped into Lake Michigan every year.
Get Off the Bottle
FLOW is pushing back on pervasive plastic pollution in part with the recent launch of our Get Off the Bottle campaign. It’s designed to help communities and community members kick the bottled water habit. The benefits include saving money and reducing the pile of plastic bottles and other waste pouring into landfills and waterways, considering that the people worldwide buy a million plastic bottles a minute, 91 percent of which are not recycled.
We invite everyone to join in FLOW’s Get Off the Bottle campaign to help push back on plastic pollution and the multi-national companies such as Nestlé in Michigan seeking to privatize our public water and sell it back to us at huge profits. We also are working to debunk the myth that bottled water is safer or healthier than tap water, with the World Health Organization recently launching a health review after a study found microplastics in 90% of bottled water tested, with levels of plastic fibers in popular bottled water brands up to twice as high as those found in tap water.
A Future That Is Different
FLOW’s campaign is part of a solution-oriented reckoning that has begun in the United States and across the globe regarding single-use plastic and its persistent waste. Companies, communities, and countries are realizing that the convenience of plastic is not worth the harm it causes and laying plans to rapidly reduce their plastic consumption; for instance:
- France recently passed a new law to require by 2020 that all plastic cups, cutlery and plates can be composted and are made of biologically-sourced materials.
- Taiwan by 2030 will ban all plastic bags, straws, and utensils.
- Toronto is exploring ways to reduce plastic pollution.
- The BBC will ban single-use plastics by 2020.
- The Los Angeles Times editorial board recently called for phasing out all single-use plastic in California.
- The World Economic Forum recommends three decisive strategies.
We hope you will join FLOW in charting a future that is different from the forecasts and instead includes cleaner water and less plastic pollution in the Great Lakes and around the globe.
Mr. Braddock (Benjamin’s father): What’s the matter? The guests are all downstairs, Ben, waiting to see you.
Benjamin: Look, Dad, could you explain to them that I have to be alone for a while?
Mr. Braddock: These are all our good friends, Ben. Most of them have known you since, well, practically since you were born. What is it, Ben?
Benjamin: I’m just…
Mr. Braddock: Worried?
Mr. Braddock: About what?
Benjamin: I guess about my future.
Mr. Braddock: What about it?
Benjamin: I don’t know… I want it to be…
Mr. Braddock: To be what?
Benjamin: [looks at his father] … Different.
– The Graduate, 1967