Looking Beyond the Energy Consumption Debate
There's talk out there that goes like this: "You gotta use that reusable mug or bag hundreds of times before it's actually better for the Earth compared to just using plastic."
This line of thinking, however, fails to encompass the big picture, neglecting to account for the perennial and pervasive impact of plastics materials that disintegrate into microplastics that stick around forever.
Choosing Wisely: Unveiling the Full Life Cycle of Materials
Would we knowingly opt for a product that remains indefinitely in our surroundings, gradually making its way into our bodies and causing unknown harm to both our health and the environment? I doubt it!
Wouldn't it make more sense to reserve the use of such a substance for products that are truly necessary or can be used over and over again? And when the time comes to dispose of such a material would we not want to do it in a way that stops it from leeching into everything around us?
In a century's time, will it be talked about how we once ventured to stores where we segregated various vegetables into individual plastic bags, purchased processed edibles enshrined in plastic, and received shipments enveloped in plastic wrappings? Will they talk about how we used to microwave meals in plastic containers and unboxed everyday items, as humble as a toothbrush or a pill bottle, cushioned amidst tiny plastic air bubbles, all housed within yet another layer of plastic the same way we talk about how previous generations painted their newborns room with lead paint, built homes using asbestos and applied mercury on wounds?
Are you wondering why plastics stick around so long?
The long-chain polymer molecules in plastics are tightly bound and do not easily break apart. Their synthetic nature means that natural microorganisms, which break down organic matter, cannot easily digest plastics.
Resistance to Sunlight and Weathering
Although plastics can fragment into smaller pieces through photodegradation (a process in which sunlight breaks the bonds in the polymer chains), this process doesn't completely break them down into natural substances. Instead, they disintegrate into smaller fragments, microplastics, which persist in the environment.
Lack of Biological Mechanisms
In the natural decomposition process, microorganisms play a crucial role in breaking down organic materials. However, these microorganisms do not have the biological mechanisms to decompose plastics effectively, leading to the accumulation of plastics in the environment over time.
Note For Hope - Fungi
Although in recent years, researchers have identified several species of fungi that can degrade plastics. These fungi secrete enzymes that can break down the complex polymer chains in plastics into smaller molecules. One of the well-known plastic-eating fungi is Pestalotiopsis microspora, which has been found to consume polyurethane, a type of plastic that is typically resistant to degradation.
Plastics are chemically stable, meaning they resist reactions with other chemicals in the environment. This stability, combined with their resistance to biological decomposition, makes them highly persistent in the environment.
Presence of Additives
Many plastics contain additives that further increase their resistance to degradation. These additives can make plastics even more resistant to natural decomposition processes, further prolonging their lifespan in the environment.
Slow Physical Breakdown
Even when plastics undergo physical breakdown (e.g., through mechanical forces like waves), this process only fragments the plastics into smaller pieces rather than biologically breaking them down into basic elements or compounds.
Because of these reasons, plastics persist in the environment for a very long time, leading to significant ecological and environmental impacts.
From Underwhelming to Ubiquitous: The Rise of Plastic
When plastic first entered the scene, it was far from a crowd favorite. It felt inferior, somewhat cheap compared to materials that had stood the test of time. However, marketing wizards saw an avenue to turn the tide. They successfully shifted plastic from a less-than-desirable alternative to a hallmark of convenience and modernity. Suddenly, plastic was everywhere, embodying the onset of a throwaway culture that seemed at odds with its everlasting nature.
The Shocking Truth About Plastic Recycling
It's time to unveil a bitter truth that many of us might not be aware of: most of the plastic we think gets recycled actually doesn't. Only about 5% of it does. The majority of it embarks on a journey to third-world nations, adding to their plastic crisis and eventually finding a home in our oceans. Consider that it might be better to just throw it in the regular trash so that it ends up in a landfill rather than polluting our waterways.
Facing the Environmental Crisis Head-On
We find ourselves in the midst of a severe environmental crisis, courtesy of plastics. These microplastics have infiltrated every nook and cranny of our planet, silently but steadily eroding the natural balance. The consequences are alarming, with plastic residues found in the marine food chain, wildlife habitats, and even in the human body, crossing barriers once thought to be invincible.
Being the Change: Embracing Sustainable Choices
Despite the magnitude of this problem, it's not a cause lost. Each one of us holds the power to make a difference through the daily choices we make and the conscientious habits we cultivate.
Every day, when I reach into my pocket, I’m reminded that small actions can make a big difference. That's why I've got a reusable roll up tote bag, and steel utensils with me. And why I'm writing this. To tell you that, yes, we can turn things around, starting with our own daily habits.
United in Purpose: Creating a Cleaner, Healthier World
We all have the opportunity and the responsibility to make a tangible difference.
Start with simple steps: educate yourself, begin noticing the omnipresent plastics in your surroundings, and initiate small but significant changes in your daily habits.
Once you've begun to adapt, take it a step further: educate those around you and encourage them to join you in this crucial shift.
But don't stop there. The next step is leveling up even further, forming or joining forces with groups that lobby at the city and state levels, where real changes take root and flourish. Because, folks, this is where the true transformation happens!
Together, we can foster a world that respects and preserves the beauty and wonder of our planet, guaranteeing its thriving state for generations to come. Let us band together, creating a united front that manifests the desperately needed change in our world. It all starts with what we choose to carry in our pockets, making conscious choices that honor and safeguard our Earth. Let's get this done, one pocket at a time!
Call to Action: Until we can reshape corporate priorities to put the well-being of people and the planet at the forefront, we need to take a stand. It's time to reclaim our Earth from forces that prioritize profit above everything else. Let's spearhead this change, starting right from our pockets!