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Plastic angst

Posted: 07 Jun 2019, 03:08
by Minnie the Minx
Every morning when I get ready to go to work or whatever I listen to Radio 4 and every morning for what seems like months, (well, it's afternoon in the UK) there are some harrowing features and interviews with environmental activists/ scientists/ campaigners and industry and government leads on the environment. It's good that this is getting so much airtime, but at the same time it feels profoundly depressing in the message - which is repeated again and again by every expert they have on the show - that giving people advice on recycling their plastics and whatnot is the tiniest of contributions - because the aim is to stop the production, distribution and use of them where there are alternatives available and that it unfairly places the burden on the consumer when that's exactly backwards. That's true of course. Of course it is. Nobody trying to recycle is doing a "bad" thing, even if it ultimately isn't "much" of a thing, with so many people not knowing that a lot of their plastic won't be re-used even if they recycle it. Anyway I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, but it's turning into an obsession with me. Because it is so fucking ubiquitous.

I can't believe the shit that people continue to throw into bins. Not just plastics, but recyclable glass, metals, cans. After living here a few years, I thought it was a really American thing, to just throw everything in the rubbish without thinking, even things that are recyclable. But it isn't, is it? It's totally global. Even now, when we all know what's going on. Some people met at my work today and they were offered water in bottles, and I thought to myself all the time they were meeting "please don't have thrown your plastic bottles in the rubbish, you live in Austin, you know what's what" and they left and I looked in the rubbish and there were the bottles, destined for landfill. I've turned into the work lunatic who goes through the huge bags of lunch meeting detritus like a pious raccoon, washing the mayo from the salad bowl and putting it to recycle, taking out the napkins for compost, putting the plastic knives in the dishwasher. If we're getting tacos out and they come with salsa in pots I take them to the toilet, wash them and take them home. But as I'm doing that, I watch people everywhere from all walks of life just putting shit in the rubbish bin. stuff that will never go away. And I don't understand how anyone can still be doing this. It's totally beyond me.

And when I watch people walking into Trader Joes and buying five bags of organic veg in plastic or fucking whatever I think about how different the world would have to look for all this nonsense to stop. Huge barrels of bulk shampoo to into a bottle for life. Hemp sacks for your bulk almonds. Taking away the luxury of choice. If you want decent oceans, you can't have shrinkwrapped cucumbers, mate. And then that horrible thought occurs to me- that it isn't, is it? People just want a nice life. They don't want bulk packages of only in -season-to-their country veg.

I'm spending way too much time every day thinking about this. getting annoyed at people for disposing of things "incorrectly." washing out our plastic bags and leaving them to dry in the garden. Every time I see a plastic bag flying down the road I feel mournful. I'm overwhelmed by the sense that I'm not doing "enough." Don't tell me you haven't thought of it too?

Having said that, I'm the twat that gets on a plane twice a year for a holiday, so I can fuck the fuck off too.

Re: Plastic angst

Posted: 07 Jun 2019, 03:31
by GoogaMooga
Kenya has imposed a total ban on plastic bags, you can't even use old bags. Of course, wildlife tourism is an important revenue for them, so it is not surprising. I believe they've considered the death penalty for poaching, for instance. In Denmark, we have taken the first step and banned plastic drinking straws. I know, small step, but you've got to start somewhere. I now use wheat straws for my Pepsi, like the Sumerians did 3,000 years ago. As for plastic carrier bags, I am a little ambivalent. I am not the one throwing them into the oceans, but I see it's a serious problem. Paper carriers are okay, but what about when it rains. I use plastic carriers a lot, but make sure to use them over and over again, sometimes to the point where I literally wear them out. But there are certain things where plastic bags are crucial. I am thinking of comic bags, mylar or polypropylene. How else can we keep paper collectibles in mint condition? How else can we preserve them? This would be a problem for archives, libraries, museums - how to protect paper collectibles.

Re: Plastic angst

Posted: 07 Jun 2019, 08:04
by never/ever
Hearing about that Pacific Gyre Vortex really made me sad. Feels like we are too late anyway, no matter what we do.

Re: Plastic angst

Posted: 07 Jun 2019, 14:21
by trans-chigley express
I regularly go on beach cleans in Hong Kong and the massive amount of plastic that gets washed up is depressing. We spend hours cleaning it up and a week later it's all there again.

I lead hikes in my spare time and often begin the hike with a quick lecture on not bringing bottled water to my hikes. HK's tap water is perfectly fine, boil it first if you have doubts, but bottled water companies will try and convince otherwise in order to needlessly sell you water in a plastic bottle. Most hikers bring bottled water alas but regulars to my hikes do stop using it which is a small step.

Unnecessary plastic packaging (Japan is the worst at this) and single use plastics are everywhere and don't seem to be going away any time soon despite the knowledge everyone has about what it's doing to the environment and, ultimately, ourselves.

Soap in plastic bottles is another thing that we need to stop. What's wrong with bars of soap and why did they suddenly go out of fashion?

I read an article today about how much micro plastic the average person ingests a year. We're effectively poisoning ourselves as well as the planet.

The list goes's depressing stuff.

Re: Plastic angst

Posted: 07 Jun 2019, 17:55
by Sneelock
it's so depressing that I'm afraid a certain amount of fatalism sets in at some point.

single use plastic straws were impossible to find in L.A. three months ago. they are not hard to find now.
I think, by the time the U.S. economy has gone far enough in the toilet that the rest of the world can stand on our necks and make us knock that shit off, it will be too late.

I know that's a terrible way of looking at it. I'd hate to think I'm resigned to it but sometimes it seems like I am.

Re: Plastic angst

Posted: 07 Jun 2019, 20:10
by Flower
Almost all straws are reusable as cat toys. My cats love batting them around. The Evil One a.k.a. Runt the Wild Pony was dashing around the house this morning with a straw.

I'm not happy with what we can and can not recycle but I read all our updates and use the proper bins. I've also seen too many videos of animals with their heads stuck in cans or jars, so I really clean my recycling. Yes, I have clean garbage. ;)

Re: Plastic angst

Posted: 11 Jun 2019, 12:24
by Minnie the Minx