What would modern world be like without plastic? I am sitting in my room and looking around. I usually want to say NO to the plastic but I can still see so many items which are made of it. My earphones, parts of the lamp in the corner of the room, my computer, my phone, my pen, boxes for spices, some plastic food containers, face cream and when I check my bin for recyclables – is also full of plastic. It’s terrifying – plastic is everywhere!
Pollution has many forms and one of them is made of a material we are all too familiar with and it is there as a result of our obsession with plastic. About 8 million tons of plastic enters the ocean each year and at least 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic are currently in the oceans (Environmental Economics, 2015). For a quick reality check, go to Google images and type “plastic birds”. Those pictures make my heart ache.
Plastic is a sturdy material that is made to last forever but the truth is that 33 percents of it only gets used once and then is thrown away. All together, more than half of the plastic is short-term plastic. And it gets worse: “Plastic is a material that the Earth cannot digest,” according to the Plastic Pollution Coalition.
Our dependence on plastic is troubling more than we think. We often don’t think about catastrophically environmental issues when we go to the grocery store and grab that plastic water bottle and a pack of chips. The truth is, Nature is slowly, silently dying around us, but we don’t see it.
We are not allowed to see it. Who actually made us obsessed with the plastic items? Why will we suddenly rather buy plastic containers instead of glass ones? Why are we suddenly buying plastic furniture instead of wood one? Why are we suddenly got so used to plastic bottles every day?
We are consumers of the plastic products. People up there from the plastic lobby, “creators of the plastic” care a lot about us. They want to make these products practical, easy to use, comfortable, cheap and they want us to be dependent on them. Their obsession is to make us obsessed with plastic. To the extreme where we cannot imagine life with plastic anymore. To the extreme, where we know all horrible facts about plastic, but plastic remains to be a part of our daily life routine. To the extreme that we admit we are living in a plastic world.
Plastic lobby is just too profitable to be stopped. In my opinion even recycling is more about people feeling better about their plastic consumption than anything else. I am not against recycling and I still believe is a great half-way solution, but recycling in the same time motivates people to continue with the use of plastic and it seems like it is a perfect manipulating tool of the plastic lobby. Nobody talks about reduction of plastic quality during the recycling process and how even plastic reaches its end. Plastic reaches its end for the human use, but it will never leave the Earth; small micro-pieces will remain in our lakes, rivers, oceans, soil, animals, food and human body.
So what can we do then? Just now in this very moment I am writing on my laptop which is basically plastic. But then I look around my room again. I can see three reusable cloth bags, glass bottles for water, steal lunch boxes, a homemade tooth paste and shampoo in refilling glass jar and I think – that all could be plastic, but it is not. I took decision to refuse plastic. I am still far away from plastic-free life but I started with the plastic items which are short – term or disposable. Our focus has to be to eliminate half of the world’s plastic which ends too quickly in our bin. And what can we do about the plastic lobby? Maybe we can learn something from these young girls from Bali who banded plastic bags in the whole Island – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8GCjrDWWUM.
Let’s not give up – “The plastic world” doesn’t have to be a reality.
Katja Polc, Member of Vatavaran team