We need to talk about plastic.
Not too long ago, I read a fabulous article about the growing body of plastic and other wastes floating ominously in the middle of the ocean. I encourage you to read it:
It echoed a lot of my concerns about the prevalence of plastic in our lives, particularly the casual one-time use of plastic items which are then apathetically discarded. For too long and without concern, we’ve been using plastic which is made from non-renewable resources like petroleum, and then relegating it to a mound of trash where it can accumulate for a hundred years without decomposing.
Think back to the last plastic item you chucked in the bin. It might’ve been a coffee stirrer, which had a purpose for all of 2 seconds before it joined other stirrers and styrofoam cups in the trash. It might’ve been the clear plastic wrapping around the item you got at the store, sadly never to be used again. The problem is that the plastic junk we’ve cleared from our homes, shops, offices and eateries still exist somewhere – there’s a good chance that without knowing it, we’ve helped to make a mess by contributing to the Great Garbage Patch in the Ocean.
Why pick on plastic?
When you look inside your trash can, you’ll see a bunch of stuff in there. There’s scraps of food, bits of paper, it’s not all plastic …. so why the big fuss?
While a paper napkin will disintegrate in the rain in a day, a plastic spoon can remain in a heap for hundreds of years. It is the part of the waste pile that doesn’t decompose. It’s as if the garbage collector never comes around, and you’re stuck with a trash pile that gets bigger and bigger.
But we recycle these things, right?
The truth is that recycling plastic is still in its teething stages. First of all, not everyone recycles. Either they don’t understand the importance of it, they don’t bother, or the facilities to do so are not available. Secondly, even from a mature recycling plant’s point of view, it’s a pain to recycle plastic, for reasons we’ll discuss in posts to come. Once recycled, the plastic may not be as strong, and hence manufacturers are reluctant to reuse it. In essence, we’re throwing out more than we can recycle, and as the oil reserves around the world deplete, more than we can reproduce.
Why stress upon the ocean?
Because that’s where it all goes.
That’s where everything goes. The water with which you wash your hands with, the soil that runs with the rain, the rivers no matter how fast or how slow, the tears you’ve squeezed from a broken heart, the wandering feet of a person deep in thought. It all leads to the ocean.
It also makes sense to concentrate on the ocean because that’s where we see the effects. Marine animals ingest plastics with harmful consequences, or get a limb stuck in plastic rings, leading to disfigurement. Though plastics are slow to decompose, but as they do, they release toxic chemicals into the oceans, which are taken up at first by small lifeforms, then bigger fish, and then us. Let’s start with the fact that there is an obscene amount of plastic floating around in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch:
At least that’s the correct reason. The real reason is because the ocean is my favorite thing IN THE WHOLE WORLD.
Aren’t I allowed to have a favorite?
I’m a plastic consumer. I brush my teeth with a plastic toothbrush that gets replaced quite few times a year. I once had secret addiction to bubble tea, which was invariably served in plastic cups covered with plastic films which I pierced with big plastic straws. My shampoo doesn’t come packaged in coconut shells – like most other items I get from the store, they’re sold in plastic bottles. I can count a hundred plastic objects around me as I sit here typing. Chances are, so can you.
I’m not waging a war against plastic goods. I’m raising my voice against plastic trash. We have to do away with the common misconception of plastic being something that can be disposed of without dire consequences. Unfortunately, we have greed and profit working against us. Companies invest heavily in advertising to drive consumerism, and the things we consume are often packaged in plastic. But no one really needs or can truly use everything that they’re asked to buy on TV. Which means that there is excess and waste. We must rethink the way in which we are generating these most permanent of wastes.
This is Project Resist-The-Plastic.
Over the next 10 days I will set out to learn about the usage of plastic goods within my own home. These revelations will appear on the blog as well as new information regarding plastic waste, plastic recycling and methods to reduce or avoid plastic pollution. The project will be using these steps as a guide.
Identify plastic items in main household areas: bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, living area, work space.
There will be a particular focus on the plastic goods that move rapidly through our household, ie relegated to waste after a single use.
Reduce use of plastic by
– Recycling or upcycling
– Reducing consumption of plastic by making products last longer, avoiding products packaged in plastic, and finding alternatives to plastic.
Collect discarded plastic in an area in the home, for a visual and tactile reference to what we’re putting in our environment.
All plastic items from now on will be placed in the temporary dumpster in our spare bathroom instead of being thrown down the magical chute with the rest of the trash. Out of sight, out of mind? Not anymore.
This project would be more meaningful if you could join me in this home experiment. You might want to use your favorite social media platform to share it with friends and family members who are similarly passionate about what’s happening to our oceans. You can click on the follow button to get updates from the blog as the project progresses.
The effects of plastic and methods being used to combat them are gargantuan, and I would love to hear about any information that anyone would like to share.
Everyday, we’ll learn a little more about plastic, and hopefully use it a little less. There are probably a lot of things I can’t do, but I think I can do this, Inshallah!
Viva la resistance!
*”Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there” – Advertisers Without Borders
*”When we pollute the sea, we pollute for a long time” – Karen Hurley
*What is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? – Designed and Animated by Ben Segall
Written by Kyoung Kim and Ben Segall
Narrated by Olivia Sandoval
Sound Design by Loren Esposito
Original Score Composed by Mathew Harwich
Based on Research by The Algalita Marine Research Foundation