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Blog // Thoughts
August 1, 2008

Urgency, Change and De-Plastification

Before Monday morning’s shock, I had been spending a lot of time on this holiday wondering about “non-negotiables,” by which I mean the things in life I really want to live without. Of course, it is the height of immaturity to expect the word to confirm to one’s desires, morally, aesthetically or relationally. People will […]

Before Monday morning’s shock, I had been spending a lot of time on this holiday wondering about “non-negotiables,” by which I mean the things in life I really want to live without. Of course, it is the height of immaturity to expect the word to confirm to one’s desires, morally, aesthetically or relationally. People will make disparate choices and act in contrary (or even deviant) ways. It’s a truth learnt through urban living, but it’s a reality everywhere – a life lived in judgement of one’s neighbors will be a life of bitterness.

But, there is still so much scope to control – and I choose the word control intentionally – one’s own domain. I’m not much of a list-maker and less of a list-adherent, but there are a few things, after this last week, that I want to say goodbye to.

Reading this morning’s web made me think of one – plastic bags and, well, plastic in general. Christine Jeavans writes on the BBC at the start of a month with plastic, not just without plastic bags, but without any products packaged in plastic.

What is revealing is how deep a simple decision to cut down on plastic can go into one’s daily habits. Which is the problem really, how entrenched habits, patterns and systems can become and why, in my experience at least, so few people ever really manage to change their lives in any profound sort of way.

I’ve longed to lower my plastic dependence, for ecological and for aesthetic reasons. Plastic bags and excessive plastic packaging are not just environmentally unsound, they are aesthetically unappealing at a deep level.

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Responses
Mike 14 years ago

LEt me start by saying that I have no horse in this race, except the world we leave my children.

While I can understand the aesthetic reasoning, the environmental one doesn’t really hold a lot of water. The most common replacement for plastic in packaging is paper-based products, the manufacture of which produces far more air and water pollution – up to 70 times as much. Paper weighs far more than plastic, leading to increased transportation costs.

It takes half the energy to recycle a given voulme of plastic than the same volume of paper, and a fourth as much energy to produce it. Plasting can be easily molded to fit what it is packaging, leading to less empty space, and plastic takes up less space in landfills.

One the other hand, paper biodegrades, where plastic does not. Plastic is the bane of coastal conservationists, and is the leading polluter of coastlines. Plastic consumes vital petroleum resources, where trees are renewable.

It may be fashionable to eliminate plastic from our lives, but it is hardly an environmmental slam-dunk.

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