When you have one of those nice little chats about ‘the fate of the planet’, you most likely focus on the fossil fuels vs. alternative energy debate. You might even discuss the high percentage of methane in the atmosphere caused by livestock and landfill. Today I’d like to have a go at investigating the role that plastic plays in such discussions.
While Peter and I have managed to break a few plastic habits over the years – forgoing plastic shopping bags and water in plastic bottles – there is still a way to go. (Please contact the author personally if you want to know the ugly details.)
My plastic awareness metre went off the scale just a few weeks ago when I joined a local group in picking up litter from the banks of Darebin Creek.
In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned how the sustainability class I attended at Swinburne University was introduced to the fact that when we throw something ‘away’, it actually goes somewhere, and while this sounds annoyingly obvious, it is a concept that has only wired into my brain since having to pick up stuff that has been thrown away.
Other than plastic bottles and syringes, the third most common item I found while creek sweeping was plastic straws, a seemingly innocent item that Peter and I have been using in our morning smoothies for some time now.
With this new found awareness of straws, I went searching on the internet to see what other people are saying. I soon discovered that I am not the only one acknowledging our over reliance on single-use plastic items. Celebrities like Adrian Grenier and Jeff Bridges have recently added their voices to the call for us to refuse single-use plastic items.
You don’t need to join a group, celebrity-led or not, as this refusal to use single-use plastic items is something we can do on our own accord. If you need some inspiration however, you could check out The Last Straw, a group based in Perth that ask us to ‘Sip. Don’t suck’.
Besides, sometimes groups with good intentions end up creating a whole lot more ‘rubbish’ that we don’t really need.
Finally, I’d like to tell you about a little girl who had high hopes for the future. That little girl was me. I remember as a child thinking that, while children could be unkind and thoughtless, adults were wise; they knew what to do when a problem arose.
It didn’t take too many years for me to discover that grown-ups can be just as unkind and thoughtless as children. As an adult, I feel a responsibility to do what I can to tread lightly on the earth so that those who come after us know that we did what we could.
June 7, 2016 at 11:42 am
One thing that really strikes me in modern-day Japan, where I am currently based, is the amount of plastic that is used in packaging. The amount of bottled water and other drinks consumed from vending machines is also remarkable. It is a serious issue. These practices are all the more surprising because of how careful the Japanese were about recycling and reusing everything prior to the industrialisation of the country (as shown in the book ‘Just Enough’ by Azby Brown). I was going to include a picture of the multiple packets of plastic straws for sale in the 100 Yen shop but can’t work out how to do it. 😦 Recycling facilities are available for plastic, which is a good thing. Minimising the use of it in the first place would be even better.
June 7, 2016 at 1:03 pm
Thanks for letting me know the situation regarding single-use plastic in Japan. I am quite surprised as I have assumed that they would be very mindful of the environmental effects of plastic. Maybe I hold this view based on the historical facts that you mention above. It is good that they recycle however, as you have noted, we all need to reduce our use and, once one has become accustomed to the convenience, it can be hard to change back again.
June 29, 2016 at 10:40 am
So true !
August 3, 2016 at 10:51 am
Yes it makes u think twice about using any packaging when u see documentaries on rubbish I do try not to use plastic i always try to buy fresh we grow a lot of our own food and we compost
August 3, 2016 at 9:59 pm
It sounds like you are doing a marvelous job at minimizing your waste. It’s not an easy task, is it, with so many things being packaged in plastic these days.