The Big Plastic Bummer: Don’t Want to Live with It. Can’t Live Without It

by Green Diva Meg

WHY SHOULD WE CARE . . . ABOUT PLASTIC?

Last February Rodale threw down the challenge to a handful of green living bloggers - live "Plastic-Free" for a month. With uncharacteristic arrogance, I jumped into the fray. I, who mostly remembers my reusable shopping bags, uses glass containers for kitchen storage and generally chooses wood, steel or glass above plastic whenever possible; I was sure this wouldn't be so awful. Ok, the rules were fairly clear about not bringing in new plastic into the house. Oh, the denial . . .

My first challenge came when I went to the grocery store to shop for Super Bowl party food. I usually pile up my veggies in my cart without putting them in individual baggies - check. But, there were a couple of items that inevitably came in plastic and it was just impossible to avoid. Well, I suppose I could've tried to find a live chicken and done the butchering myself, but being that I'm a vegetarian and only indulge my family in chicken under duress, that wasn't really an option.

Suddenly, I started to see how much plastic was in my world - plastic I wasn't willing to party with. Like the bits on my cell phone, my computer was heavily dosed with the stuff, in fact a lot of the coolest tech stuff I work with uses plastic. It is just really hard to imagine a stereo tuner encased in all wood, glass and steel. Would be fun, but not sure if the inner components would work that well.

Within the first few DAYS of this experiment, I was really discouraged and frankly a little hopeless about all this plastic given all I had been learning (wait for it . . . a few details coming). Then we interviewed Jurrian Kamp, publisher and founder of Ode Magazine. Excellent timing. He (and Ode) is all about solutions. He always seems to find a positive spin on things. Mr. Kamp talked a lot about learning to live responsibly with plastic. His position was that right now we need innovation more than we need to eliminate plastic and for better or worse, it was a key component in much of what is being developed for technology today. We talked a lot about forward-thinking companies that were finding ways to manufacture new products from old plastic in order to keep our production of new plastic to a minimum. Then, of course, we have Green Diva Lisa and many like her, who are finding ways to get as much use out of one piece of plastic as possible to at least delay its piling up in our landfills. [listen to our interview with Jurriaan Kamp - it starts a little past the halfway mark in this podcast]

Thus my utter disdain and personal survival denial about plastic shattered and my mind opened to striving for a more balanced and responsible use of this substance that is considered by some a resource, even if it is man-made.

Just a couple of good reasons why we should care about plastic

According to Susan Freinkel, author of Plastic: a Toxic Love Story, the world consumes over SIX HUNDRED BILLION POUNDS OF PLASTIC ANNUALLY, and it does NOT biodegrade for hundreds of years.

According to the United States International Trade Commission, in 2008, U.S. consumption of imported and domestically produced Polyethylene Retail Carrier Bags was reported to be 102,105,637,000 - [from BagMonster.com]

Have you heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

  • AKA Pacific Trash Vortex
  • Central North Pacific Ocean
  • high concentrations of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge, and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre
  • Estimates of size range from 270,000 sq mi to more than 5,800,000 sq mi. (0.41% to 8.1% of the size of the Pacific Ocean)!Some media reports, have it up to TWICE THE SIZE OF THE CONTINENTAL UNITED STATES! No one really knows the size, because you can't see large items from a boat. The mass mostly consists of small plastic particles suspended at or just below the surface, making it impossible to detect by aircraft or satellite. [Wikipedia]

Plastic Bottle Plague

In the US alone, an average of 230 plastic bottles PER PERSON go to landfills every year. That's enough crushed bottles to fill the Rose Bowl EVERY TWO WEEKS! [greensmart.biz]

Not to mention all that BPA

If you haven't heard about the perils of BPA to human, especially to children, babies and even fetuses. Tests have shown that BPA leaches into food from many plastic containers, especially when food is either heated in a microwave or frozen. The list of its potential negative effects on human health is long, including obesity, a variety of cancers, thyroid and hormone disruption . . . Learn more about BPA. And BPA isn't the only toxic compound used in the manufacturing of plastic. I could go on and on, but that's another whole post.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

  • Do the plastic-free experiment yourself and try not to bring any new plastic into your house - trust me, in one week, you'll have a heightened awareness of just how much plastic is in our world.
  • Minimize plastic use by:
    • Remembering re-usable bags for shopping
    • Buy in bulk
    • Re-use what you can
    • Recycle!

Listen to our interview with Susan Freinkel, author of Plastic: a Toxic Love Story

Listen to the Green Light: Short & Sassy audio vignette on the perils of plastic

The Green Divas Radio Show, podcasts, audio vignettes and blog posts feature fun and low-stress ways to live a deeper shade of green, while maintaining some comfort and style. Green Diva Meg, co-host Green Diva Lisa and sidekick, Green Dude Scott offer tons of easily accessible information and resources to help make the journey to a more sustainable world easier and a little more fun and entertaining. The radio show broadcasts live every Saturday morning from WMTR 1250 AM in Northern, NJ/NY Metro area, streaming live on WMTRam.com, or catch up on the podcast.

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