The age of plastic

This post discusses some of the findings conducted by  Professor of Palaeobiology at the University of Leicester, about the use and impact of plastic. The post contains the following quotation from the study:

“We now make almost a billion tons of the stuff every three years. If all the plastic made in the last few decades was clingfilm, there would be enough to put a layer around the whole Earth. With current trends of production, there will be the equivalent of several more such layers by mid-century”.

These figures are truly frightening.  I am often so dismayed by the amount of plastic used for everyday items. One of the my bones of contention is the increasing use of plastic bags to hold vegetables in grocery stores.  I always take cloth produce bags with me so that I can fill them with bulk vegetables such as green beans, brussels sprouts, and so forth.  I have seen the rise of the use of plastic bags to contain vegetables that have been traditionally sold in bulk. Besides the waste caused by the plastic, it bothers me that I have no control over the amount of vegetables I can buy. This is one of the many reasons why I buy most of my fruits and vegetables from local farmers’ markets. When I ask produce managers about this practice, I usually get one or both of these answers: “Some customers say that they think it’s unhygienic to sell vegetables in bulk;” or “but the plastic bags are recyclable.” While I am sure that some people do, in fact, believe in the first point, I suspect that most customers actually don’t like the use of all this wasteful packaging; besides, most people wash fruit and vegetables before they consume them. I think some North Americans have become obsessed with the notion of hygiene to an unhealthy degree, if you will excuse the play on words. The recycling mantra is a myth, since even assuming that all plastics that can be are recycled (which apparently is not the case), the recycling process consumes large amounts of fossil fuels, as does the manufacture of plastic in the first place.  I have actually seen stores where individual bananas were sealed in plastic, never mind the fact that I can’t think that too many people would actually eat the banana peel. When I encounter these situations, I always make it a point to express my concern to the appropriate managers, and encourage them to look for alternatives.  I make it clear also that I support vendors who minimize packaging. I know that one voice doesn’t carry much weight, but a collection of single voices can.

Here are some good resources for people who want to reduce their use of plastic:

 

 

 

 

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