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July is Plastic-Free Month. Here is some information for action from your CSS Lutherans Restoring Creation Mission Table to help you and your congregational members move to plastic-free. (Thank you to Laura Raedeke of Lutheran Church of the Cross in Nisswa, MN, for this information.)

1. In just over 50 years, items in a U.S. grocery store went from very little plastic

(and almost no single-use disposable plastic products) to more than 300 million tons of plastic items each year - bottles of water, straws, single-use utensils, takeout containers, coffee cups and lids, and food coverings, most of which get thrown away.

The plastics industry puts a recycling logo on the bottom of nearly every product, but in reality, only 8 percent of all plastic in the U.S. is being recycled, with more than 90 percent being buried in the ground, burned or washed out to sea. More than 600 organizations and communities are working together to force state, city and county bans on plastic bags, as well as restricting plastic production, curbing singleuse plastic items, and holding plastic manufacturers accountable for their waste, pollution, and harm to communities.

2. Even though 95 percent of microplastics (pieces of plastic smaller than a grain of rice) are filtered out at the 15,000 wastewater treatment plants in the U.S., a study done by The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) showed that each facility releases more than 4 million

microplastic particles on average into our waterways every day.

Since 99 percent of all plastic is made from fossil fuels, producing them creates greenhouse gases that contribute not only to the climate crisis, but to the roughly 5 trillion pieces of microplastics floating in the world's oceans. These accumulate in the tissues of all water-dwelling creatures, impairing reproduction, growth, mobility, and feeding patterns. While eliminating all plastic is unnecessary, it is imperative that we move to eliminate unnecessary plastic, like single-use plastic.

3. Plastic we cannot see (microplastics) is not only found in 70 percent of the fish caught in the North Atlantic, the average person who eats seafood consumes 11,000 plastic particles per year, and by the end of the century, it will be 70 times higher. But since microplastics are now in our air, water, and soil, they are also in the meat and vegetables we consume, as well as in water, beer, and sea salt. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has studied tap water from 14 different countries, including the U.S., and finds that in each liter of water, on average, there are about 5 1/2 pieces of microplastic, with twice as much microplastic in bottled water as in tap water. Since there are chemicals such as BPA and phthalates in plastic that are associated with fertility problems, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers, it is urgent that consumers change the types of materials they buy and use, and demand materials other than plastic.

4. If we are going to fix the problem of plastics in our environment, we have to demand change and reduce our use of plastics now. HERE'S HOW:

1) use reusable items made from glass or stainless steel, wash and reuse food jars;

2) consider reusable grocery and produce bags made from natural fibers like cotton or hemp;

3) when you can, buy in bulk and look for food that's sold in glass or metal instead of plastic; 4) store food in glass jars or containers, reuse plastic containers you already have (but use glass for liquids or hot food to avoid chemical leaching);

5) Beeswax wraps can replace plastic wrap or bags;

6) ditch the bottled water by keeping a refillable bottle on hand, say no to plastic straws and utensils in takeout orders (keep your own set of utensils with you);

7) prevent the roughly 75 to 80 percent of polyester microfibers from going down the drain by purchasing Environmental Enhancement's MicroPlastics LUV-R Filter, which attaches to your home washing machine (toss trapped particles into your trash bin).

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