Pete Myers

My 'photodegradable' plastic mulch just killed two snakes

I've always loved snakes. They come and go from my office. So I was horrified to see two caught up in 'photodegradable' plastic netting, dead.

CROZET, Virginia – I didn't know what to do with this. Fortunately the Facebook community was listening.


As a kid I had pet snakes. I have always loved them. Now, in my log cabin office snugged up against the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, black rat snakes live not as pets but as co-residents, eating resident mice. They come and go. Less welcome was the copperhead I caught and moved from the entrance door earlier last week. They all are part of the earth's biodiversity and play roles in making the earth inhabitable for all, including humans.

Last week, after moving the copperhead, I discovered that a weed control tool I purchased and laid out in my garden called a "Straw Blanket," from Pennington Lawn and Garden Care Products, indiscriminately kills snakes. They get tangled in the "photodegradable plastic" mesh that holds the straw together and that is supposed to degrade over time in sunlight. Two docile, friendly corn snakes were caught in the mesh together, and died. Maybe some of you would like to surround your house with it because you are afraid of snakes. Perhaps Pennington should advertise this feature: #WeKillSnakes. I will spare you photos of the dead snakes.

A consumer myth

Biodegradable is one of the great myths of the consumer society.

I was – and am – horrified. Biodiversity (including snakes) is having a really tough time these days (see the recent UN report). And the worse it gets for other parts of the animal/plant kingdom, the more vulnerable we are for a collapse of civilization. If you think this is an exaggeration, you don't know the relevant scientific literature.

I put this tale of shock and woe on Facebook. Pennington Lawn and Garden, I said, needs to stop selling this product, quickly. I tagged Charlottesville Southern States Cooperative, where I bought the product.

And here's where the story takes an unexpected turn for the better:

I went back to Charlottesville Southern States Cooperative, to return my unused Straw Blanket rolls and to tell them that they were selling a defective product that killed snakes. I didn't want a refund, I told the clerk, but I hoped the store would consider putting a warning sign on the sales floor. She smiled at me. "We saw your post and already took all of them off the floor."

Thank you Charlottesville Southern States Cooperative! I hope you also encourage Pennington Lawn and Garden to do the same.

Print Friendly and PDF
SUBSCRIBE TO EHN'S MUST-READ DAILY NEWSLETTER: ABOVE THE FOLD
Originals

Competing visions for a famed river in a Midwest hotspot—Part 1

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan—A bike ride along the Grand River downtown is a breeze—heading downstream it's all downhill.

Keep reading... Show less
Pittsburgh

Attention Pittsburgh — Let's talk PFAS

As part of an ongoing reporting collaboration to cover PFAS contamination in Pennsylvania, EHN and Pittsburgh-based PublicSource are holding a community forum next month for residents to hear from reporters and experts on health concerns, state contamination and cleanup progress.

Keep reading... Show less
Wil C. Fry/flickr
Toxics

Widely used PVC plastic chemical spurs obesity, prediabetes: Study

Mice exposed in the womb to a chemical used in PVC plastic, door and window frames, blinds, water pipes, and medical devices were more likely to suffer from prediabetes and obesity, according to a study released this week.

Keep reading... Show less
Originals

Peter Dykstra: Acid heroes

One of the first environmental heroes I ever met was an unusual man named Dan Smiley.

Keep reading... Show less
Credit: anique/flickr
Originals

NY seeks to be first state requiring ingredient labeling on menstrual products

A New York bill passed this summer would require labeling on menstrual products that lists the ingredients so women can avoid potential toxic exposure.

Keep reading... Show less
From our Newsroom

Above The Fold

Daily & Weekly newsletters all free.