Message in a Bottle

Ryan Jurik, Writer

Take a few moments to look around you–what do you see?


Perhaps you see papers and post-it notes scattered all over your work space or even filling up your trash bin. Maybe it’s snack wrappers or soda cans left over from someone’s lunch. Cardboard boxes stacked tall in the corner of the room, or an ink pen snapped in half on the floor.


Why are they placed there? What purpose do they serve, laying around tracking dust and taking up space?


One of the scariest sights I witness on a daily basis is how people, as well as our community–locally, nationally, and even globally–handle large amounts of generated waste. This is not to say that there are no methods used in treating this issue. In fact humanity has undergone major improvements with how they handle their waste over the past few decades, putting their garbage in trash bins instead of on the streets and implementing sanitary health codes that assist in the preparation of food. However, there is still more that can be done that goes towards taking good care of our planet.


The generation of waste has a huge negative impact on our environment, which is detrimental to the survival of every living species on the Earth, including human beings.


Many plastics such as High Density Polyethylene (HDPE: used for bottles for drinks, cleaning supplies, and shampoo) or Polystyrene (PS: used for styrofoam cups, plates, take out containers) are able to give off toxic chemicals by leaching onto whatever comes in contact. Exposure to high temperatures accelerates this leaching process in plastic. These chemical toxins given off has lead to numerous health defects, damaging the nervous system or disrupting hormone development. Even when plastics are disposed of, they sit in landfills for hundreds of years, releasing chemicals and greenhouse gases as they endure a long decomposing cycle.


The accumulation of so much plastic, due to the mass consumption of products that utilize some form of plastic, is filling up landfills at exponential rates. Unfortunately, not all plastic items reach their destination and wind up drifting to sea, becoming a part of one of the five major gyres in the planet’s oceans. The largest of these gyres is located in the Pacific Ocean, where 90% of all generated plastics float in a massive rotating whirlpool. Due to the long duration of time that these plastics have circled the ocean, large plastics has dissolved into microplastics, which certain marine organisms can absorb into their cells through a process called Filter-Feeding. These aquatic creatures, with the toxins present in their body, are then caught by fishing boat and are later turned into meals for human consumption.


This is just plastic–think about all the other items that are turned into waste. Rainforests are chopped down so that farmland can be made and raw materials such as paper or geo-minerals can be harvested. Large amounts of energy is used to produce these plastics and raw materials, which in turn expels more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.


It is crucial, in this moment, for us as humanity to change once more–to improve the methods in handling this waste. People need to be more aware of the environmental impact they are making every day with their lifestyles, habits, and decision-making.


Here are ways of alleviating negative effects on the planet by properly disposing of generated waste:

  • If it served one purpose, it can serve it again. Plastic bottles can refilled to be drank out of again or, if recycled, be converted into raw material for polyester clothing, furniture, or other products that utilize plastic.


  • Conserve to Preserve. Try to think sparingly about the items you use or receive every day. Instead of throwing away paper that are left unfilled, reuse it as scrap paper until the page is full. Tattered clothes could be patched up with a few pieces of cloth. Plastic containers or cardboard boxes can be used as universal storage spaces that can be emptied out and refilled at any time.


  • It’s not necessary if it’s not needed. When you go to the store and only buy a few items, turning down a plastic bag and carrying your purchases can make a big difference on accumulating waste, as well as bringing in your own reusable shopping bag when you are out running errands. Eating in at a restaurant is a better alternative to getting take out, because the plates you eat off of can be cleaned off and used again, while the plastic containers storing your ordered food will end up being thrown in a trash bin, becoming a one-use-only.


  • Stockpiling prevents defiling. Create a space where you toss all your recyclables so it’s all in one place. This can be achieved in many different ways: Stuffing one plastic bag with many other plastic bags, filling a box full of scrap paper or plastic wrappings, or simply having a recycling bin! You can sift through these recyclable piles that you have created and properly dispose of them so they don’t end up elsewhere.


Students in the Bentonville school district can reach out and make their own ecological impact within the community through many different ways. For instance Bentonville High School has a Recycling Club, sponsored by Mrs. Karla Cook, that goes around the school to collect scrap papers and plastic bottles from classrooms. You can sign up on enriching students to be apart of this activity during flex time.


There are also recycling centers in the Northwest Arkansas region, such as the Bella Vista Recycling Center. This facility processes through various recyclables, consisting of transparent water/soda bottles, colored opaque bottles, glass bottles and jars, metal cans, cardboards or brown paper, newspaper, and textiles. It offers other services alongside their recycling, donating magazines to veterans and their family and giving jobs to volunteers. They are open from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., however drop-off bins are accessible at any time of the day.


If you are interested in making yourself actively involved in recycling and cutting down waste, select a flex time to participating in our school’s recycling, or get in contact with the Bella Vista Recycling Center either at or call 479-876-5343.