Yes that’s right, I said it. If you recycle your plastic you are doing a good thing, but really it’s not enough to make a difference. According the the EPA, currently only 8% of plastic is being recycled. If your plastic doesn’t have a stamp and a number on it, most waste disposal companies don’t want your plastic. If it’s got moldy food on it, you probably just tossed that plastic into the garbage can, where it will never change form from the oil it was polymerized out of. Going out to eat? Did you notice how many items like straws, ramequins, and lids are made of plastic and get thrown into the waste stream on a regular basis?
No, most people who find this post will be forced to admit it – American’s as a whole do not appear to be attentive to the levels of consumption they participate in. It’s a hard truth to face because we Americans have been raised by the corporations around us to consume as much as possible with minimal efforts going toward reducing those numbers. This has been a business model for all of time. Fortunately American’s only need to go back about 100 years to the creation of the National Forest Service to see examples of why a conservation method of consumption and production is necessary. Without the efforts of the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir; hundred of ranchers, woodsmen, hunters and loggers would have mass consumed the natural resources of our land. Instead these resources are still being used generations later – all because a conservation methodology was pressed upon them.
Recently a friend of mine posted a comment that essentially indicated that because she participated in recycling processes, mass consumption of plastic bags was acceptable. I’m here to argue this as a falsehood. Besides the fact that most plastics are not recycled; the act of consumption equates to the justification for manufactures to continue taking virgin oil and producing virgin plastic as a sustained and profitable practice. Unfortunately, this practice is not considered sustainable as oil is available on a limited basis, once we run out, there is no more. We have but one planet to live on. Ironically, it’s also the one source for all concepts of life as we know it. With one planet providing us with a limited stream of resources, the concept of limited consumption should be a no brainer.
Unfortunately for our grandchildren, these concepts were not passed effectively from generation to generation. Remembering lessons from our past allows us to prepare for our future. Only we don’t have a past where we polluted our oceans and skies while piling ‘single use’ materials all around ourselves. In fact, the lessons from the greatest generation – about working hard, achieving, thinking outside of the box, tending to the space you are given, giving more than you were given ( just to name a few); well these lessons are falling by the wayside of I want it now and I shouldn’t have to work at it. But, the most important of these lessons should really be about supply and demand.
If I don’t use or make purchase of plastic, I’m not generating any demand for the product. However, when you slow your consumption of plastics, a movement is afoot. If you and I use less oil, participate in ride sharing, public transportation and planning trips to the store; if we can begin to work with others in our community to change the way we think as a group, then we become more than a movement. Changing your consumption habits is not going to be an easy thing, but when the day comes when birds on remote islands stop dying from plastic ingestion, the day when all plastic is recycled or depolymerized back into natural or refined chemicals then maybe we will be glad that we took time to appreciate the efforts. If we don’t make these changes, we can’t teach our children by example. They follow in our footsteps, replicating the behaviors they see at home. So instead of participating in destructive behaviors toward our planet, consider the positive impact your hard work will benefit those to come in both indirect and direct ways. Can you think of three ways which changing your consumption will benefit the planet?