Wean off plastic because it's the root of all evil in our environment; or can we learn to use it responsibly?
Can you imagine that some of the world's best beaches are starting to look like this? It will only start to improve when each and every one of starts to take responsibility.
Eight million tons of my and your plastic waste is dumped into the once pristine oceans of our world every year; it cannot continue indefinitely.
This page was last updated by Dr Bernard Preston on 13th August, 2020.
"We have a single mission: to protect and hand on the planet to the next generation."
President Francois Hollande, France.
Let us be honest; plastic has become so central to our culture that, like dollars and euros, we simply cannot wean ourselves from it entirely.
Actually that is a misquote; it is the love of money which is the root of all evil, and not filthy lucre itself.
In similar vein, it is our misuse of plastic that is the problem.
And it is a huge dilemma; big enough to destroy our civilization if we do not do something about it. Within a few short decades the weight of non biodegradable synthetics in our seas will be greater than that of fish; and already marine life is choking on our debris.
Right now plastic in the oceans of our fragile world makes up 25 percent of the weight of fish; it is already causing unimaginable devastation to marine life.
Unless we do something right now, within a few short years our grandchildren, not to mention the next generations will be facing an uninhabitable world; the impact on our environment is already vast.
Rightly so, they will blame us; so what are we going to do? Wean off plastic is our first responsibility.
Microplastics are bits that have broken down to less than half a centimetre in length; not so small. Research shows that substantial amounts are found both in our drinking water, but much less in that from boreholes.(1)
Weaning off plastic in our drinking water is not simple; the very bottle that it comes in contributes. Those who harvest and drink rainwater are the only people partially free from this scourge.
Yet Janice Brahney, reporting in the journal Science, found that microplastics are in the global dust is spread by winds across continents with larger particles settled on the earth by rain, but smaller ones being deposited in dry weather.
"Plastic is falling out of the sky into everything."
- Prof Janice Brahney
The elephant in the room is what both this plastic, and the toxic chemicals that adhere to it are doing to our health. A conference of scientists was held in Amsterdam in October, 2019 presenting the first evidence of health risks from micro and nano plastics.
‘Nobody can deny anymore the potential danger of microplastics to our health. This is perhaps the most important result of the Plastic Health Summit.'
- Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation
Microbeads are substantially smaller particles of plastic that are routinely added to cosmetics and toothpaste as an exfoliant.
Previously exfoliants were made from natural products like apricot seeds or coconut husks, but plastic is cheaper and now routinely used.
We are weaning off plastic by longer using cosmetics and brush our teeth primarily with bicarbonate of soda, and very tiny amounts of toothpaste.
They are far too small to be filtered out of our drinking water; we consume micro-beads and plastics at our peril.
Manufacturers have yet to find a solution to the toothpaste dilemma. The only way we can wean off this plastic, is to use just a smidgen, and bicarbonate of soda instead as the abrasive; helps to keep the mouth alkaline too, and protects the teeth. You only need a very small amount.
Wean off plastic or, like money, is it our irresponsible use of hydrocarbons that causes the pollution of our seas? First and foremost is our mission to hand over our pristine planet to our children. Otherwise they will stomp on our graves and curse their parents.
It seems an impossible task; do away with shopping bags, credit cards, motor car parts, wrapping for food to keep it fresh you probably are asking? So am I.
The moment the farmer harvests a cauliflower or cabbage it begins to decay; atmospheric oxygen starts to do its work, just the way it was intended to.
The only problem is that they do not decay the way your cabbage does. Can one imagine a world full of brassicas that never spoil? Mountains of them piling up, uneaten, filling our dumps and the seas.
No, the Good Lord in His wisdom gave us oxygen to allow all natural products to decay and return to the earth. But Man, who created plastics is not so smart; not yet anyway.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Scientists have discovered bacteria that can break down some synthetics. But it's only the beginning and, unless we play our part, that of the academics will be too little.
Worse, it will be too late.
Current thinking is to
Let's look at them in turn.
Refusing to accept plastic bags at the till when you are shopping is the first small step. It means taking your own with you; that surely is not too much trouble to make sure your grandchild has a habitable world to live in.
Reducing is perhaps more difficult; it means refusing to purchase items that are wrapped in plastic. If it's a Barbie doll, then I would have no difficulties, but if it was the protection that keeps the oxygen from my broccoli, then I would have a troubled mind.
Perhaps it means going to the farmers' market where you know the vegetables were harvested either yesterday or early this morning. In addition you then you can be sure they weren't transported half way across the country in refrigerated trucks, contributing enormously to greenhouse gases.
It is only a notion, but I believe that eating in the main what's in season is healthier, but I have no research to back it up. Strawberries for Christmas means transporting them thousands of miles, and the single use packaging is a far cry from wean off plastic.
“I’m American. I believe in nuclear war, I eat red meat, and I litter!"
- Geoff Bennett
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Reuse is really not difficult; so many of the plastic bags can certainly be utilized for something different.
My granddaughter received an expensive Barbie doll gift for Christmas; it came wrapped in a plastic sheet that I found on the way to the garbage. It was of a high quality, thick and strong plastic, and perfect for covering my worm farm to keep the rain out.
I do hope the female worms are not forced into a state of depression as our women are, unable to compete against the most perfect body in the world.
Reusing was easy, but recycling means washing the plastic; today I took half a dozen containers from the fridge, filled with decomposing food; that old spinach and celery went straight to the worms who will love them, but the bags were yuk. There was no way that I could recycle them without first rinsing them out. It took but a few seconds.
Likewise with plastic milk jugs and bags; rinse them out and send them to the recycling. If not for yourself, do it for your grandchildren.
Before sending plastic for recycling one should make it at least vaguely clean. Pouring a little tea from the pot into the empty milk bottle, swishing it around, will remove most of the remains; then pour it into your cup; less wastage of the last few vestiges of dairy too.
Very roughly, plastic may be divided into
And then there are problem plastics that no one wants. Currently a group in Durban, called the Pyrolysis Group, is taking this waste, adding glass chips and turning it into pavers.
Backyard permaculture means learning to work with nature rather than against it; using the oceans as a huge landfill for our garbage is one of the most destructive things we can ever do. It's as bad as polluting the air. Our children's children will curse us unless we learn somehow to wean off plastic.
We will never wean off plastic in my opinion and whether we will ever learn to use it responsibly remains to be seen; I have my doubts. It's become so easy to toss it and humans are the laziest and most dirty creatures on the planet.
It will take a spiritual revival for us to learn to treat creation with respect.
If you don't have a modern stainless steel pressure cooker, think about getting one; mainly because they save time, but also electricity.
Cooking takes one third of the time under pressure.
Weaning off plastic is going to be extremely difficult; it's more addictive than heroin.
Imaginative people are finding new ways to deal with our plastic waste. These cola bottles filled with plastic give work to people, reduce our need for bricks and provide a very useful way for disposing of waste. But how long will they last, exposed to sunshine?
Bernard Preston is a semi-retired DC with a passion for well-being, and preserving the pristine nature of our environment. Alas I don't really believe we will wean off plastic and one way or another the human race will self destruct in the next century or so; perhaps a lot sooner.
Will you do your bit for your children, if not for yourself? At least make every attempt to recycle and reuse the plastic that passes through your hands. Reducing by carrying shopping bags with us to the supermarket is not that difficult.
Perhaps my eighth book will be about inventive ways to save the planet. Number seven is besieged right now; read the first six? You won't be sorry. They are dirt cheap on your Kindle.
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