Just one word…Plastics

April 1, 2018 at 12:28 am 1 comment

OK, I’m clearly dating myself, but I think that’s a broad enough allusion that most readers will pick up on it.  If you missed it, just click here.

As we near the annual celebration (or is it commemoration?) of Earth Day, this one word is on many, many people’s lips, and I believe much more so in my current location in the Southern Hemisphere than in my home country.

It’s hard to imagine our modern civilization without plastics. They’ve made our cars lighter (and hence more energy efficient), our world safer (think air bags and bicycle helmets), our activities more comfortable (nylon windbreakers and Gore Tex parkas), our medical care safer (disposable syringes) and our lives generally easier.

But like most technological advances, this has come at considerable cost.

This came to my attention recently when the Australia media was mesmerized by this video that was uploaded by a British scuba diver off the coast of Bali recently.

I wonder if this got much play back in America. The folks down here keep a much closer eye on Southeast Asia because it’s nearby and it’s a very popular vacation destination for Australians.

This story is just a smaller part of the larger issue of plastic disposal, epitomized by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

So it seems painfully clear that plastic, for all the benefit we’ve derived from it, has left a horrific legacy that we, as a civilization, have not fully comprehended, let alone confronted.

But there are good folks who want to change that. Among the many news-feeds I comb through each day, I get updates from the “Earth Day Network” who are devoting their efforts this year to stem plastic pollution.  I recommend the interested reader to spend some time on this important issue by visiting their informative web site. Here are a few tidbits I learned, but didn’t now about (disclaimer:  I see a lot of claims that passed off as proven facts that may, or may not be true, and I haven’t independently verified any of these, but they all have a ‘ring of truth’ about them)

Fact #1:
8.3 BILLION Metric Tons (9.1 BILLION US Tons) of plastic has been produced since plastic was introduced in the 1950s. The amount of plastic produced in a year is roughly the same as the entire weight of humanity!

Fact #2:
Virtually every piece of plastic ever made still exists in some shape or form (with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated).

Fact #3:
Nearly TWO MILLION single-use plastic bags are distributed worldwide every minute.

That last one really hits home for two reasons. First, since we’ve started living in Australia, we see that people are much more mindful about plastic bags here. In some regions (Tasmania, for example), you are charged extra for plastic bags. A nominal amount to be sure, but it’s amazing how that simple fact of paying $0.10 for an item makes you think about it differently.  Second, as the state legislature in my home state of Idaho adjourns for the year (whew), I am reminded of one of their more interesting and contradictory pieces of legislation they passed in recent years.  They actually made it illegal for any county, municipal or other local government to regulate the use of plastic bags or bottles.  While I think there’s plenty of space on the public stage to debate the proper role of government regulation to address environmental issues, I don’t agree that the correct response is to preclude that debate by cutting all possibilities of action.  This is particularly ironic coming from a body, the majority of whom are quick to rail against the federal government for imposing their will on the states and profess to adhere to the ideal that government is best when it’s closest to the people.

This year they did themselves one better and made it illegal for local governments to specify a more energy efficient building code than the state accepts.  More on that later. Sigh.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

If you want to send a message… The Problem with Plastics…

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Plastics.. Part 3 | Make it green but keep it real!  |  April 25, 2018 at 7:15 pm

    […] my first two musings on the problems with plastics, I noted the scope of the problem (which is global and huge) and the touched on the supposed solution — recycling. The western […]


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