Saturday, February 27, 2010

Can't We Think of Something Better Than Plastic?

Somewhere In the  beautiful Pacific Ocean, a gigantic ugly mass of garbage floats.  It's bigger than a landfill.  Bigger than a couple of landfills.  Think about this - this mass of garbage is twice the size of Texas.
Picture it.

(National Geographic)

David de Rothschild is using his name, influence and engergy to bring the world's attention to this astounding unseen tragedy.   Mr. deRothschild has built a catamaran from 12,500 plastic bottles.  He will sail from San Fransisco, California to Sydney, Austrailia, investigating the plastic pollution inthe Pacific Ocean along the way.  The Plastiki Expedition not only seeks to bring attention to the incredible pollution caused by the use and irresponsible disposal of plastic, it also highlights the many alternative uses for recycled plastic.  The entire boat is created from recycled plastic. 

I'm taking stock of all the garbage, especialy plastic, that I use.  I think it is amazing how much trash one person can generate!   While, yes, one solution is to recycle, and we do.  But, think about how many products we buy in plastic packaging!  Cleaning products, personal hygiene products, hardware, automotive, all those little things that are wrapped in so many layers of plastic you need heavy duty scissors to open them.  Why can't we minimize our waste right from the very start? It is hard, if not impossible, to find these products contained in anything other than plastic.  There should be other alternatives to plastic packaging?  Isn't there a way to make biodegradeable plastics?  Yes to both of these, I am sure.  So, why isn't this happening?


  1. Do you remember the scene from "The Graduate" with Dustin Hoffman?

    "Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
    Benjamin: Yes, sir.
    Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
    Benjamin: Yes, I am.
    Mr. McGuire: Plastics."

    Sadly, plastic is big business, and as long as big business makes billions of dollars producing it, it is not going to go away any time soon. In fact, it seems to be increasing. It's very sad.

    How on earth did that huge pile of plastic get into the ocean, and how can we prevent it from getting any larger? How can we get rid of it?

    We need to let everyone know it's there. I think most people would be disgusted.

    Great post!

  2. My little grandsons are almost 2 and 4 and they're already huge recyclers! I have my recycling bins out on the front porch and we make little jaunts out there thruout the day to put things in them. I don't believe God put us on this earth to ruin it...I believe He expects us to be good stewards and I try to instill this in the boys. When we throw out bread scraps for the birds I tell them we're taking care of God's little creatures. So many Life lessons start at the cradle.

  3. jennifer, you're absolutely bang on the button. plastics use a lot of energy in their creation and more again in their recycling. they're extremely convenient and that's their attraction. but any time you take an easy route there's a price to be paid in some way and that's what we're seeing now. i hope that the huge plastic island is somehow coralled and hoovered up on board a whaling ship and taken somewhere to be taken care of. steven

  4. I had heard of this mound of plastic, but not seen it. Every time I use something plastic or Styrofoam I cringe. I make every effort to not use this but it is inescapable in many cases. Why can't we just use glass? Milk bottles, Windex, furniture polish, etc., etc. could be back in glass rather than plastic containers... unless we're using recycled plastic for the containers. How many times can plastic be recycled? Is there a limit? Extremely disturbing.

    I love Jo's reference to the line in "The Graduate"! Priceless.

  5. Up here, a lot of our plastics are recycled. On many, you pay an environmental tax (non-refundable) and a refundable deposit (which you recover when you take the bottle to the recycling shop).

    Intelligent way to handle "waste." But cutting down would be better.

  6. Jo - you reminded me that plastic has only been in major use since the early 60s. So, all of the plastic pollution we are seeing now has been created in just 50 years - uggh!

    First comes knowledge, and then (hopefully) prevention. My frustration lies in the fact that there seem to be no alternative in most cases. I don't believe one can buy deoderant or engine oil in in anything other than plastic.

  7. MissKris - Since we sill have to buy plastic, at least we can recycle, and keep it out of the ocean! Good for you for teaching your grandchildren!

  8. Steven, so right. Even as I think about this and think about what I can do to avoid using plastic, convenience (guiltily) still comes to mind. As in, if I could find some place that sells bulk cleaning products, would I haul several containers to the store to refill them? Even now, for example, I buy granola and almonds from the bulk bin - which go into plastic bags. Although I believe the bags are biodegradable, I could bring my own reusable containers. Most of us now bring reusable grocery bags, but one can imagine arriving at the grocery story with a cartfull of containers - it would be difficult!

  9. Lizz, yes glass would be a better option and my above scenario of piles of reusable containers!

  10. Rob - thankfully more and more places are switching to mandatory, or incentivized recycling. Here in one town, you have to pay for each bag of trash, but all recyled materials are picked up for free. So, the more you take out of general waste, the cheaper it is. Maybe there is hope!


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