One of the purchasing “rules” I’ve imposed on myself is to avoid all plastic containers, and most plastic products. Vegetarianism is easy, compared to this. Plastics are everywhere, and very difficult to avoid. What makes plastics fantastic, is also its problem. The choice about how we as a society use plastics is what we can influence with our purchases. Plastics we do choose to buy, need to be recycled. Look for, and buy, recycled plastic products, as well.
Now there’s a new choice, and that is to find and buy bio-plastics. These containers can be composted and returned to the material stream.
Petroleum Plastic’s durability is the principle property that makes it so valuable to industry and consumers. It is also one of its prime deficits. Plastic can be molded into any vessel desired. Coca-Cola and other companies have been selling the world water in many forms, sugared, plain, or juiced in plastic bottles. Those empty containers have to go somewhere, and the producers take no responsibility for them. They clog our waste systems and end up throughout the environment. The oceans now have immense gyres of plastic debris. Products that have very limited shelf life have containers that are made of a material that can never be broken down to its source components. This an obviously inappropriate use of this valuable resource.
Most of the plastic we encounter comes from petroleum feedstock. We all hear advertising claiming we have plenty of petroleum reserves for 100 years, or more. Natural gas proponents tout 250 years of reserves. I find these numbers horrific. That we accept these limits as reasonable shows how brainwashed we’ve become. Human culture has been on the planet for thousands of years. Who are we to burn and waste such a precious material feedstock at the rate we are? Won’t human beings want to make useful durable objects centuries from now? Who are we to deprive the future for the sake of profit and convenance today?
So I do all I can to buy recyclable plastic for those products I do still buy. Juices and most liquid products are also available in carton containers, and I seek those out. I also buy recycled plastic products when I can. My plates and cups are made from recycled plastic. Another favorite recycled plastic product is fleece. My blankets and jackets are all recycled polyester plastic. Patagonia is a company that is dedicated to using recycled plastics in some their products. (Unfortunately they are all foreign made, but that’s another post).
The other consumer choice that is now available to us is to seek out and buy bio-plastics. I first learned of these products at Rothbury Music Festival. This festival was dedicated to using sustainable practices wherever possible, including compostable cups. They published pictures of the cups being shredded, and eventually spread on the concert fields. Anytime we have a choice to use a grown product instead of a mined product, the grown product is typically the better choice. I’m seeing more use of bio-plastics in packaging and expect to see more.
The evolution of plastic and its place in human culture is one example of how we can influence proper material utilization by industry with our purchases. The development of bio-plastics came from consumer demand.
I know humans can develop solutions that respectfully and appropriately harvest and utilize the planets resources. Consumer demand is a powerful force.