2019: Saying goodbye to plastic

Posted on Tuesday, January 1st, 2019 at 20:37
By Fangz (talk) - Fangz created this work entirely by himself in Photoshop, using materials in the public domain., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5077997

Finally, 10 years after I wrote about this topic in our local newspaper, the issue of plastic waste in our environment has hit the mainstream. A widely watched episode of CBS’s 60 Minutes in mid-December, “Cleaning up the plastic in the ocean,” showed the deadly consequences of the throwaway society we’ve built across the globe over the past half-century.

Suddenly, I began hearing folks discussing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and the danger this plastic trash and micro-plastics pose for wildlife and for humans. People who formerly seemed not to care have been talking about foregoing plastic straws and taking reusable bags to the grocery store to avoid taking plastic bags. More municipalities across the country are passing common-sense regulations to ban straws and Styrofoam takeout containers. It seems we’re at a possible tipping point.

I’ve been reducing, reusing and recycling for many years, and had decided consuming plastic in limited quantities seemed to be OK as long as we had the ability to recycle it. We recycle through our waste management company, Republic Services, which says it recycles plastics 1-7, including milk jugs, water and soda containers and shampoo, soap and detergent bottles. But an open question for me is what happens to these items once they’re picked up each week from our yellow-and-blue bin?

According to an NPR report last June, for the past 25 years, the U.S. had been exporting plastic recyclables to China, but the Chinese suddenly decided to stop taking them. The New York Times also reported on this issue last January.

How did it ever make any sense to incur a massive carbon footprint to recycle plastic? And what is happening to our plastics once they hit Republic’s recycling stream? In Indianapolis, because we burn our garbage to provide heating and cooling for downtown, would it be more responsible to simply throw plastic into the trash so it doesn’t end up in the oceans and on our beaches and on the shores of third-world countries?

In 2019, I am making it my goal to get to the bottom of these questions and to work toward eliminating plastic from my life by 2020. I plan to lobby corporations and lawmakers to make common-sense reforms regarding plastic and to encourage others to consume less. More on these efforts in future blog posts.

Here’s to a plastic-free future. Happy New Year.

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