The Case Against Plastic
The very first item that you need to accept is that you cannot throw plastic away. First of all, there is no ‘away’ for plastic; organic matter can compost and degrade and break down into other organic materials; plastic is not an organic material, it does not decompose. Wait, I’m wrong; plastics will decompose; only it takes a little longer than organics. Plastic takes 450-1,000 years to break down. Where is plastic? Plastic is like God, plastic is everywhere. Bags, bottles, wrappings, ingredients in makeup, decorations, diapers, automobiles, furniture, clothing, kitchen appliances and tools. There are more than 500 foods-- that we know of-- that contain plastic; and no, plastic is not something that I personally want to ingest.
FYI: Around the world, the ocean’s currents form vortexes (called Gyres) as they pass by each other going on their merry ways, like the curves on a global ampersand. Finish that bottle of water, crumple up that burger wrapper, toss that pf30 sunscreen tube anywhere near water and where will it wind up (assuming, correctly, that plastic does not sink in water)? Correctomundo! Sooner or later.
There is a North Pacific gyre that is called “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, made up mostly of plastic that has gone from water system to water system until at last it comes to rest in an ocean gyre, needless to say, it is not the only “Garbage Patch”. Others are in the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, South Pacific and Indian Oceans. This one, though, is the size of Texas. It will not healthily support marine life; although, there are seers that predict self sufficient colonization and (human) independent living situations including innovative underwater skyscrapers made from ocean trash in our future on those sites.
Plastic bags are a big issue because they are not recycled and end up in landfills, waterways and the cracks and crevices of your world. California has outlawed plastic bags, New York City and Washington D.C. impose a fee on using them and although plastic bags account for no more than 15% of plastics used, environmentalists believe that this is a great start to cutting down on the world’s plastic addiction.
70% of food packaging can release chemicals that act like estrogen: these include baby bottles, deli packaging, flexible bags and even those products marked ‘BPA Free’. Now, let’s consider New Orleans with our go-cups, Styrofoam (which is made from plastic), and large super-markets that pack people’s shopping carts with more plastic bags than there are items purchased. We use plastic bags, wrappers, containers and products here like they’re dollar bills in a whore house on bargain night.
When plastic is heated, the best that scientists will state is that “it is not good for you”. Thanks guys. And yes, smokers, there’s a carcinogenic plastic in those cigarette tips; if the tobacco doesn’t get you then the filter will.
Citing that more than 160 municipalities and Hawaii have some sort of ban on plastic bags, The New Orleans Advocate reported (November 21, 2015) that City Councilwomen Susan Guidry and Latoya Cantrell introduced an ordinance that would require retailers to charge customers (with some logical exceptions) for paper and plastic bags. On March 10, 2016 the Advocate reported that the bill (#31074), indeed, would be taken up at the next legislature session by the House Committee in Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs which had its first session March17 this year.
The plastics industry spends millions of $$ to keep regulation at a minimum, if at all, they don’t care if plastic is choking our planet, they’re fat cats that make mucho dinero and laughing all the way to the bank. They claim that poor people will suffer if they have to pay a fee for plastic grocery bags and neglect to mention that the price of those bags is already factored in to goods purchased; they’re argument is that it is a tax on shopping. Conscientious folk will point out that it isn’t hard to bring your own reusable bag and many companies are willing to give reusable bags away just to have the advertising space.
Plastic is made of petroleum and chemicals that are compressed into large molecules that are malleable, hence the name. In 2014 plastic grocery bags were the seventh most common item collected during the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup, behind smaller debris such as cigarette butts, plastic straws and bottle caps. Plastic bags can choke marine life, snag birds and hang about in tree tops like (as they say in Ireland) “witches’ knickers”.
Proponents of bag usage will tell us that most bags have a second life as garbage can liners, kitty box liners and pooper scooping bags. Logic tells us that this is still only one step closer to the dump. By some estimates, the world uses and throws away more than a trillion bags a year, that’s 1,000,000,000,000; think about that when that BRF employee at the checkout station loads your cart with more plastic bags than items purchased. One big plastic boogie man is BPA, found in food and liquid packaging and containers, thermal cash register receipts and the lining of canned goods (75% of cans in North America are lined with BPA). BPA gets into your bloodstream, and is an endocrine disrupter with links to cancer, asthma, autism, blood pressure, childhood obesity and diabetes as well as compromises in fetal development. BPA is a plastic product. It can even be absorbed through skin pores.
Can we now ever conceive of a world without plastic? Unfortunately not, the genie is out of the bottle and as I look up from my (plastic) keyboard I count twenty different products made from the material within arm’s reach. The most logical solution to the proliferation would be to stop producing the stuff and rely solely upon recycling that which we can and doing without that which we cannot.
In a call to the Councilwomen’s offices, I was told that
“New Orleans households use approximately 225 million plastic bags annually. Reducing the use of these plastic bags will not only beautify our City and save taxpayer dollars on sanitation collection, but will also prevent toxic environmental harms that occur in the plastics production process. By encouraging consumers to bring their own bags to shop, we save resources and lessen the need to create throw-away consumer goods. I have enjoyed working with the Reusable Bag Alliance to educate the public about this ordinance, and look forward to the hearing in September.”
The other day I got a plastic bottle of water as a last resort on being stranded in public unprepared for the heat and the glare of a New Orleans July. I noticed that in five states there was a nickle deposit on the bottle and considered how many people here could live from the plastic bottles that we throw away (or recycle).