Better options exist than tying ribbons of plastic

Death brings up deep emotions and a desire to honor deceased loved ones. While we feel compassion towards those motivated to express their grief by partaking in the new ritual of tying plastic ribbons around parkway trees, our circle of compassion also includes the health of the environment.

We are finding fragments of plastic ribbons on sidewalks, parkways and streets. We are facing a growing global plastic pollution crisis.

There is no end in sight as virgin plastics continue to be produced. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade and most plastic never gets recycled. What little amounts do get recycled cannot be recycled forever. Eventually plastics break down into micro- and nanoplastics that contaminate soil, find their way into waterways and into living organisms, and infiltrate treated drinking water. The Conservation Foundation in Naperville recently led a discussion with a staff member of Shedd Aquarium about the Let’s Shedd Plastics movement. She mentioned that an estimated 22 million pounds of plastic debris enters the Great Lakes annually. About half of that total enters Lake Michigan, the source of our drinking water. These staggering quantities were the conclusion of a study done by Matthew Hoffman of Rochester Institute of Technology.

Surely we can think of eco-friendly tributes such as planting a tree, purchasing a bench for a park or forest preserve, or making a donation to a charity. We challenge your readers to write in with other suggestions for eco-friendly tributes which both honor the memories of loved ones and sustain the environment. — Matthew and Delores Caruso, Hinsdale