|A view of garbage.
Let me repeat this: Plastics are not part of the web of life. They do not truly recycle but downcycle. They inexorably accumulate despite the best efforts at recycling because the circle cannot be completed, so this cannot be called recycling. At best what we are doing is downcycling, modifying used plastics into lower grade plastics that can be used once or at most twice in some other form. After that, they reach the end of the line.
The consequence is that plastics keep accumulating in the
landscape. Horrific examples abound: dead albatrosses with stomachs full of
plastic fragments; turtles and other wildlife chocked to death by plastic
rings; fish full of plastic. Worse yet, the smaller fragments are out of sight,
but not entirely out of the picture. Some may be inert but many others are
potential carcinogens and toxins. If they are eaten by animals, they become
part of the food chain. Are we eating our own plastic garbage? We probably are.
|Dead albatross chick.
What to do? We may not be able to eliminate plastics entirely. Some plastics are useful, even highly valuable and we don't have to give all of them up. But we could start with the disposable, one-use only plastics, such as grocery bags and water bottles. They represent the largest bulk of plastic waste and there are easy ways to cut down on their consumption.
Two great books should be helpful if we commit ourselves to the task of plastics: "Plastics, a Toxic Love Story by Susan Freinkel gives abundant information on plastics, their history, uses and recycling."Plastic-Free:How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too" by Beth Terry is equally informative. It is also packed full of suggestions on how you can reduce plastic usage. It also provides numerous useful links.
As for me, I have been taking steps toward reducing plastics. I take my reusable bags wherever I go, not just to grocery stores, but also other stores. Sometimes the cashier of a book store or drug store automatically reaches for a plastic bag, without noticing that I am holding my bag in front of him or her. In such cases, I promptly stop them with a smile and tell them: "We have to help the environment any way we can". I say it loud enough that other people in the line can hear me. I used to be embarrassed, but no more. I do my best to be cordial and to emphasize the word "we".
When eating out, I carry my own container and bag. When the waitress offers a doggy bag, I tell her I don't need one. I am not surreptitious about it anymore. Once again I speak loudly about helping the environment.
I still don't know what to do with all the grocery items that come in plastic containers; although I am beginning to keep track of "green" stores that make an effort to provide egg cartons rather than Styrofoam ones, cardboard salad containers and similar items. But there is still a long way to go.
What suggestions do you have
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© Beatriz Moisset. 2013