Plastic pollution on a beach in West Africa
Plastic pollution on a beach in West Africa in 2018. Photo by Muntaka Chasant via Wikimedia Commons

My life exploded eight years ago—literally. My family and I were part of the roughly 160,000 people who were forced to flee their homes following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

Before evacuating, my husband and I had spent a year and a half trying to protect our children from contaminated food, air and water. Imagine finding out the rice and milk your kids had been eating and drinking at school was contaminated, and one product after another was being recalled for contamination after you had been serving it at the dinner table.

You might not need to imagine this scenario much longer, if companies and governments don’t find ways to dramatically reduce their reliance on single-use plastic. The world is pumping 17.6 billion pounds of plastic into the ocean every year—and it never goes away. It just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces that act as magnets for harmful pollutants. Those tiny pieces of plastic are then eaten by fish and work their way up the food chain into our food supply.

And it’s not just seafood—microplastics have been found in everything from salt and honey to water and beer. Scientists are only starting to realize the effects plastic is having on our health. What happens when this everlasting pollutant has completely contaminated all of our resources?

While companies continue to increase their plastic production rates, some governments are starting to take action. California is currently considering the most comprehensive single-use plastic policy in the nation. Senate Bill 54 and Assembly Bill 1080 aim to reduce by 75% all single-use packaging by 2030, focusing on the top 10 single-use plastic products most collected at statewide beach cleanups. The bills call for a dramatic increase in source reduction, recycling and composting, and require all single-use products to be made with compostable or recyclable materials.

We need to do everything we can to make sure these pieces of legislation pass the Senate and Assembly by Sept. 13 and make it to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk, where they will hopefully become law.

And this goes for businesses as much as it does for individuals. Some time after my husband and I left Japan for San Diego, we opened our own restaurant together. Soichi Sushi in University Heights is an intimate and exquisite Japanese Omakase dining experience built around sustainability.

You won’t find plastic straws or plastic takeout containers in our establishment. Our chopsticks are made of bamboo instead of wood because we found bamboo to be a more environmentally friendly option. We’re currently working to create cooler boxes for our food vendors to use so that they can avoid delivering fish wrapped in plastic wrap, and we’re researching sustainable alternatives to plastic wrap for storing our food.

These choices sometimes come with small added costs in the short term. But I promise you, the long-term effects of continuing to use materials we know to be harmful to our planet will be much more costly. What happens when you can’t get safe ingredients for your business? From a seafood-industry perspective, I worry about not being able to acquire fish that isn’t highly contaminated or polluted in 10 or 20 years. All industries need to be careful in the choices they make, the type of energy they use and the type of supplies they depend on. It’s all tied together.

It took a life-changing disaster for me to become aware of what happens when we don’t prioritize our planet. Even minor decisions we make in life as individuals, communities and governments have an impact. And you never know when the consequences of abusing the environment are going to land in your lap.

As responsible business owners, we need to be part of environmental change. We all depend on the ocean. Harming it will ultimately end businesses and our future as we know it. California SB 54 and AB 1080 take a first step toward addressing the unsustainable throwaway culture we’re leading. Join us in standing behind it and encouraging our policy-makers to lead our nation in protecting our livelihoods and our planet.

Raechel Kadoya is co-owner with her husband of the Soichi Sushi restaurant on Adams Avenue in University Heights and the mother of three daughters.