Plastics, Beautiful But Deadly

Plastics, Beautiful But Deadly
Plastic is a beautiful material. Actually, the parent term, plastic, includes many similar types of material that are useful to humans and the industries that we have created. This feat of chemistry includes Polyethylene terephthalate or PET, Polystyrene or Styrofoam, Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC, Polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon), Polyvinylidine Chloride (Saran), Polyethylene, LDPE and HDPE, and Polypropylene (PP).

We usually care about waste management and try to avoid waste, but don't realize how permeating this material is. We eat salads in plastic bowls and buy shampoo packaged in pretty colors and not have a thought about the material itself.

Almost everything we touch has some sort of plastic in it. The material itself has the amazing properties of staying stable, is lightweight, is waterproof, moldable, sometimes an insulator, and relatively cheap.

Plastics package and preserve food and other daily use products, secure goods in shipment, are major parts of your car, are medical devices, and are part of your clothes. So when you take a day to observe, it is overwhelming how much this magical material has seeped into our lives.

The convenience and apathy that plastic has brought to consumer culture, particularly in the west, has spread to the east. I find to be scary. Because it is so common, and as individuals we find that we can afford to pay for a single use of the material and throw it out, we don’t even stop to consider or wonder where it is going to end up.

The sad news to share is that our single use plastics generally end up burned or in precious water bodies, which are not only homes to animal friends, but also sources of water and food for us.

We need proper maintenance of material at source, regular waste collection, simpler transport to aggregation points, and cost-effective sorting and cleaning of the material. Then management of transport to a recycler is important so the material can come back to life as pellets…maybe. All of this material management is expensive and producers and consumers both pass the buck on who is responsible for ensuring waste comes back in to the economy as a resource.

So, isn’t it better to avoid single use plastics? I mean, if the Queen of England can give up plastic straws, can’t you too?! In fact, the exercise of refusing single use plastics can make you more present and conscious about your daily micro actions.

Really have to shout it out to Blue Planet II for bringing the problem of plastics in oceans to a wide audience. The contrast of the majestic ocean against the sad excreta of human existence can be disturbing. As consumers in this ever connected society, we have to be more concerned that our actions are impactful, not only to others, but also to the future versions of ourselves.

So we challenge you to do two things:

  1. Spend an entire day observing how much plastic you consume and see.

  2. Then, after noting this down, try for a day to avoid plastic as much as possible. Replicate this day after day for a week.

Sometimes it will be easy, sometimes it won’t – but it will make a difference.

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