Do we need plastic?
That’s one of the questions I believe we should be asking ourselves,
as the ocean begins to drown in the man-made material…
A plastic-free society is a scenario I definitely pose in my current manuscript The Seren Stone Chronicles (unedited excerpt):
‘Will’s eyebrows shot up. “There’s no plastic!”
“Legend has it that all your plastic got swallowed up by mother earth in the lunar apocalypse,” said Ianthe. “It melted in the pit of her belly.”
“Best place for it,” said Rhianna.’
In my future Wales, plastic has become a thing of the past, but how do we know how the phenomenon of this synthetic material created only 110 years ago (though natural polymers have been around for generations) and widely available from the 1940’s after the introduction of Tupperware, will ultimately affect the earth that we live on?
I glance about me at home and plastic is rampant…It forms much of my laptop, television, plug points, plugs, wires, my car outside, pens, kitchen utensils, white goods – fridge, freezer, many appliances, and a huge amount of packaging. It even forms veneers on some of my cheaper bookshelves, plastic bags, and more, but the majority of disposable plastic in my home derives from packaging.
How do we replace it? It shouldn’t be that tough, after all, generations only a hundred years ago didn’t have access to the sort of durable, strong plastics we do now, and they managed! We could move back to using metal, wood, and plant-based materials, but in this society that’s not always easy. A few years ago my daughter tried to reduce her plastic usage and go plastic free using bamboo toothbrushes, trying to buy dry food in jars, even taking her own jars to fill, and her own cups to coffee shops, and using canvas bags for shopping. It was so hard, and so unaccepted that it became near impossible to achieve. Some people have and I salute them, but it makes normal life very difficult.
We live in a society where butchers aren’t used as much as they could be, and meat is packaged in large, thick, sealed plastic boxes. The green grocer is left behind for plastic bags of pre-packed fruit and veg, and the grocer with cardboard boxes and tins and jars has been replaced with plastic bottles, containers, and bags for almost everything.
We are often pushed by governments and local councils to recycle more, fines are imposed when we don’t, and rubbish collection services are cut to force recycling. The fines and restraints should be levied upon the companies using excess packaging, in my opinion, but that’s another story.
Many people are trying their best to be environmentally friendly, after all we didn’t ask for plastic microbeads to be placed in soaps, facial washes, and toothpastes. We don’t need all the packaging that companies force upon us, and we don’t need many of the knick-knacks that are constantly thrown at us. And there are so many organisations trying to show us the way to a more enlightened and environmentally friendly approach to life.
We see how plastic is drowning the sea, how microbeads have devastated oceans and marine life, how plastic wraps have damaged creatures, and how plastic is washing up on beaches across the planet. 8 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean every year from bottle tops, to rope, bottles, plastic bags, sanitary products, disposable nappies, and more. Evo News even quoted that: ‘The number of plastic microbeads in oceans and seas, bigger than the number of stars in our galaxy.’
However, there’s been great news from Greenpeace who reported just last week that by 30 June 2018 all personal care and cosmetic products with microbeads will be off shelves in the UK in a government ban!
We’ve all seen pictures of seabirds with legs and feet caught in plastic bags and debris, turtles deformed with plastic can rings looped about their shells, and fish, seals, dolphins, sharks, and even whales caught up in plastic nets. These are creatures we have the responsibility of caring for. We have the responsibility of caring for the whole earth.
There are several initiatives trying to help clean up our oceans, and make us aware of the pollution of plastic. Von Wong began #MermaidsHatePlastic and borrowed 10,000 plastic bottles to make an art installation that makes a valuable point. Find him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and read his story.
My question evolves into a solution when people respond with the continuing need for plastic in our lives, why can’t we use the plastic we recover from the ocean? Hopefully we are, or if we’re not then governments will soon pick up the idea, as they have with home and business recycling.
But to counter, maybe we can try to use less plastic, invent things that use less plastic, and we could buy and use more environmentally friendly products to begin the move away from plastic. Plastic isn’t generally good for us. Many of us, myself included, reuse water bottles to drink from, but that plastic gradually breaks down and enters our bloodstream through constant use. It’s better to buy a metal or glass water bottle. As charges for plastic bags have come in, we are using less and reusing and taking our own, every little helps. We need to keep doing our bit, no matter how small it is.
There are alternatives if companies are willing to put the money and research in to develop products that are environmentally friendly – take these plastic bags for example…
I’ve seen plates and tableware made from palm leaves or wheat fibre pulp, bamboo toothbrushes, cotton/canvas shopping bags, water powered clocks, solar power and much more. We can all do our bit by increasing recycling, reusing products, avoiding one-use items, and we can actively reduce, reuse and recycle.
I’ve seen many products that are created/invented using plant based materials, we just need to change our ways, alter our sensibilities, and transform our habits.
Humans don’t like change – but change is what we need to do.
We need to continue the fight to remove unnecessary plastics and packaging,
to help not only our own health, but the health of the planet on which we live.
What are we doing to Mother Earth?
* Edited to add: 2nd August 2017 is officially #EarthOvershootDay…which makes this post even more appropriate. Today is the day that we have used up this year’s quota of Earth’s natural resources for one year. We need the equivalent of 1.7 Earths to support humanity’s demands on nature… Just something to think about…