by Carol Hohle
Plastic is one of humanity’s truly amazing inventions. It can be molded, cast, extruded and shaped into films and fiber. I think the most amazing shape it takes is as a vessel for carrying liquids and other items. Bags, bottles, and boxes made of plastic have proved to be one of the most effective forms of packaging man has created.
Just take a look at this collage of objects created by plastic!
The bummer is once plastic objects have fulfilled their purpose and been ejected from our lives they turn into trash with a decomposition timetable that takes way too long.
The plastic bag, used in check out lines to collect and carry our groceries, is a fairly new invention that came onto the scene when I was a teenager in 1976. They have become so ubiquitous though that they are overtaking the world’s landfills and creating harmful litter in every place they land. Depending on environmental conditions it can take between ten to thousands of years to decompose – and with only one in fifty bags being recycled – recycling is not going to be long-term strategy to prevent us from gunking up the planet.
So how do we undo 30 years of growing dependency on plastics in our life?
First, I recommend developing an awareness of how much plastic we use in our own lives. Once we’ve cultivated an awareness, we have some information upon which to plan how we can deduce our dependency on it. Then we each have to take action to make small and big steps to eliminate it.
Another resource that first alerted me to the fact that recycling won’t solve our choking-on-plastic problem is 5 Gyres. This post explains the complexity of the recycling solution myth, exposes some of the misinformation tactics of the plastics industry, and offers a few short-term solutions we might collectively take to get a handle on this epidemic.
I hope that as we become aware of this issue we, as a people, will rise to the challenge it presents and will develop new materials and objects that maintain the same level of design ingenuity but remove the hazards to the environment. I believe we are fast approaching a time when we can no longer afford to develop non-sustainable goods – we must embrace cradle-to-cradle design.
“Your home is a garbage processing center where new things are purchased
and slowly demoted through various stages of trashification until you’re done.”
- Comedian Jerry Seinfeld