By Mark Peterson
It is no secret that we are being overrun by the ever increasing amount of plastic that deluges us every day. Just about everything we use in our modern society has some sort of plastic component to it. Even our glass bottle with a metal lid has the plastic tamper proof shrink wrapping around the lid. Finding products or foods in packaging that is not plastic is extremely challenging and going “plastic free” takes a supreme amount of effort. The truth is the petro chemical foxes are in the hen house and only plan to keep eating up the fossil fuels while making only tertiary efforts to stem the rising plastic tide.
There is no doubt that plastic has improved the quality of life for many around the world. Many lifesaving procedures and device implants would not be possible without plastic. Plastics have helped to drastically reduce the amount of food spoilage and loss as foods from factories and farms are transported to retail locations. Plastics in cars have made them more user friendly, safer and lighter leading to increased fuel efficiency. The keyboard I am typing on and the computer station I am working away on are largely composed of plastic. Plastic isn’t all bad but our binge habit of using it for anything and everything is.
In terms of what to do on an individual basis one of the easiest and most impactful ways to reduce your use of plastics is to swear off single use plastic water bottles. It is estimated at the current rate the world will use 582 BILLION plastic bottles by the year 2021. Studies shows the USA returns less than 50% of bottles for recycling and yet only 9% are actually recycled into bottles. Yes, that’s right 91% of your single use bottles aren’t being recycled into new containers and are destined for landfills, incinerators or a nearby coastline. Additionally, the production of a single plastic liter water bottle uses two liters of water, meaning the footprint of a single liter of water is actually three liters. Considering retailers often keep this tap water in a bottle (yes, 56% of bottled water is just tap water) in refrigeration, the footprint is increased even further.
Many have ditched the single use bottle long ago, and desire a bigger shift and want to change our habits further and work towards less plastics in our lives, in our oceans and in our environment in general. What is an individual to do? First, give yourself some grace! We are swimming against an almost insurmountable current of industry overproduction with no end in sight. The cold hard facts are the plastics (petro-chemical) industry has invested over $180 billion dollars since 2010 for facilities that will process virgin fossil fuels and manufacture a vast array of new plastic products. It is estimated that this will lead to an increase of nearly 40% more plastic all while we struggle to responsibly handle the amount of plastics circulating now.
“We could be locking in decades of expanded plastics production at precisely the time the world is realizing we should use far less of it,” said Carroll Muffett, president of the US Center for International Environmental Law, which has analyzed the plastic industry. We need to hold the companies producing plastic accountable and demand change. Currently, these massive corporations are writing the rules and greenwashing their commitments (or lack thereof). It is clear the foxes are in the hen house and it is high time to do some house cleaning!