Can we live without plastic? If you’re up to date with environmental news, you must know about the worldwide anti-plastic movement. People everywhere are going to great lengths to live a plastic-free life, but this material is everywhere, and sometimes it feels like no matter how hard we try, we simply can’t avoid it. Is eliminating plastic from our lives the answer to the problem or is changing our single-use mindset the key?
Paradoxically, plastic was born to prevent animals from dying
Plastic was invented due to the growth in the popularity of billiards. The balls were made out of ivory tusks, which meant elephants were being slaughtered by the thousands. The demand quickly surpassed the supply, and ivory became scarce and expensive. Michael Phelan (the « Father of American Billiards« ) sought an alternative material that was more sustainable and affordable. And that’s where it all began.
We mainly see articles explaining in detail why plastics are bad, and why we need to get rid of them. Sure, there is no denying the harmful impact that plastics can have in our environment, but where would we be if it hadn’t been invented? The fact that we could now create our material meant that we no longer had to solely depend on our natural resources.
The “environmental cost of plastic in consumer goods is 3.8 times less than the alternatives materials that would be needed to replace plastic.
A study conducted by Trucost found that the “environmental cost of plastic in consumer goods is 3.8 times less than the alternative materials that would be needed to replace plastic.” For materials such as glass, aluminum, and paper to replace plastic in the same functions, the environmental cost would increase from “$ 139 billion to a total of $ 533 billion” a year. The increment in cost is not the only concerning component; we would see a rise in energy, water, and greenhouse gas emissions. Can we afford to live without plastic?
Plastic should be saving the world, but instead, we’re drowning in it. What’s going on?
We produce and consume without restraint. According to the Helen McArthur Foundation, plastic production has increased 20-fold in the last 50 years to 380 million tons by 2015. This should not be alarming but for this figure: less than 10% is recycled, most of it is thrown away and at this rate, we are going to drown in our waste.
Less than 10% is recycled, most of it is thrown away and at this rate we are going to drown in our own waste.
We can’t blame a material, when in fact we are responsible for the pollution. The solution is not to ban plastic, but to ensure that it is used responsibly and recycled properly: We need to RETHINK PLASTICS.
3 steps to start rethinking plastics
We, as consumers have the power to change this situation by doing three things:
1. To radically change our “throw-away”, consumerist culture:
This lifestyle, installed in the comfort, immediacy, and the little value we give to things, makes us use one-time utensils very often. That is why we must restrain ourselves from buying or using disposable coffee cups, cutlery, bags, straws, or foam made from plastic.
2. Calling attention to establishments that continue with this culture and stop attending them:
If a coffee shop chain still gives you a drink with a disposable lid or straw, or if the supermarket still wraps the fruit in segments, you should do two things: first, call for attention and, if they don’t change their attitude, stop going there.
3. Choose companies that practice circular and local economy:
Yes, it can be a little more tedious but choosing companies that use recycled or biodegradable materials, and provide us with recycling facilities for the material we use, is one of the best ways to aim for a society where plastics are not a problem.
You can learn about our recycling program here.
A recycling centre outside Beijing, China. Photograph: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images
We can’t blame one entity for the plastic pollution crisis. This is a global issue that needs to be addressed in unity. Committing to a sustainable future should be everyone’s priority.