It’s Time to Get Smart With Plastic

Let’s be realistic, we are not going to stop using plastic. It can’t be un-invented, and even the most die-hard environmentalist would not want a world completely free of plastic.

Why?

Because without plastic we have no electronics other than very basic lighting and heating.

No computers. No phones.

None of the smart machines that help to keep us alive in hospital.

Forget aircraft, other than the wood, glue, wire, string and cross-your-fingers ones of the beginning of the 20th century. They’d be propeller-driven and trips to the other side of the world would be a thing of the past, other than for the very rich with lots of time on their hands.

Although that brings up another environmental question altogether, of course.

IMGP2288

No, I don’t know why I chose this picture either.

What we do need to do is to get smart with how we use plastic, and what we use it for.

Most importantly, single use plastic bags should go. Period. So should all plastic bottles. Just getting rid of those items would cut plastic waste enormously.

We should return to using paper to wrap food products, and linen or paper bags to carry them.

This would limit what could be shipped long distances, and our choices, but we need to accept that.

There will still be those who say ‘I demand freshly picked paradiddles from the rain forests of the Antarctic and I don’t care about the environment!’ but society has to learn to say ‘Well, you can’t have them!’

But might we be able to have our cake and eat it?

Or even our paradiddles?

Possibly…there are already excellent alternatives to plastic bags, in the form of bags made from corn-starch, which is similar to the plastic ‘traditional’ plastic bags are made from, but really is bio-degradable. In fact, they are bio-compostable, which is one step up from being merely bio-degradable, in that they break down into carbon dioxide and organic matter only. This means that to get rid of them you simply chuck them on your compost heap and they break down rapidly. * but see below

There are disposable cups, food storage containers and much more already in use. And even the thickest items, such as corn-starch cutlery, take only 6 months to decompose once thrown away.

Why is there not a greater push towards using these worldwide?

Dare I suggest vested interests?

 * I am now adding a rider to this!

It seems I didn’t do my homework thoroughly on this one. There are problems in disposing of corn-starch polymers in that they have to be separated out from all other plastics, which is totally impractical since they look much the same, and cannot be sent to landfill sites. And if mixed in with ‘normal’ plastics, they contaminate them and prevent their being re-cycled.

Pah – I thought it all seemed too simple!

Advertisements

Plastic Bottles of Water

Plastic bottles of water.

We buy plastic bottles of water.

Why the bloody hell, at least in the west, do we buy plastic bottles of water?

And, hang on a minute, before we even start wondering why we pay stupid amounts of money for a commodity that is virtually free, we even pay for those silly little contraptions on the tops of the bottles that you grip with your teeth, pull, and then, if it works, and doesn’t just break off, enables you to squirt the water through this nozzle into your mouth.

All of this just to save you unscrewing the cap and taking it off.

The dreadful labour of having to unscrew the cap.

And taking it off.

Perhaps that is why we buy the bottled water – to save us the bother of turning a tap and holding a glass beneath it to catch the water.

Really?

So why do we do it?

P1050104

It costs…well, tap water is all but free. For example, in California tap water costs one tenth of a cent per gallon.

In the UK my local water company charges £1.248 per cubic meter, which is 220 gallons, for water. This makes it just over half a penny a gallon.

Bottled water? On sale in my local supermarket for £1.50 for 3 litres. On special offer. There are approximately 4.5 litres in a gallon, so this costs out at £2.75 per gallon, which is approximately 550 times more expensive than tap water. Or, if you like, you are paying under half a penny for the water, and almost the entire £2.75 for the plastic bottles.

Feel good about that?

Me neither.

Perhaps the bottled water is far superior to the tap water?

Nope. Sorry about that, it’s not.

First of all, approximately half of it comes from the tap in any case. Yup, that’s right. The company that flogs it to you gets it from out of the tap.

And as for the rest, tap water is subject to more stringent quality and health standards than bottled water is, in any case. In tests on water in the USA last year, tap water came out better.

So are the huge, multinational soft drinks companies who manufacture these things doing it for our benefit?

You bet they’re not. They’re doing it because they can see an easy and gigantic profit.

We could do worse than talk to our old friend, Mr Satan Moneyglutton, the anonymous CEO of a major soft drinks company, at this point.

‘I honestly don’t know what you’re whingeing about. You want convenience, don’t you? What could be more convenient than pouring all of your money into our coffers?

‘Tap water is so yesterday. It’s inconvenient. We have declared war on tap water. When we’re done, tap water will be relegated to irrigation and washing dishes.

‘And we are working hard to persuade restaurants not to give tap water to diners, but force them instead to purchase our bottled drinks.

‘It is helpful, of course, that most towns and cities seem to have stopped building and maintaining public water fountains, thereby forcing the thirsty citizen to purchase a canned or bottled drink.

‘Furthermore, with the spread of those nasty windfarms and tidal power generators, the future for oil as a source of power is, sadly, looking a wee bit unhealthy.

‘Clearly, there’s no point in leaving the oil in the ground where it’s of no use to anyone, so it makes sense to step up the manufacture of plastics which, incidentally, will make me even richer.’

So, there you go.

‘Nice bottle of water, sir? Only £1. And would you like a plastic bag full of air with that? Only £1.50.’

Don’t laugh – it’ll happen soon, I’m certain.