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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

We can't recycle our way out of our plastic mess

Reduce. Period.

By Daily Dose

This year’s Earth Day theme was Planet vs. Plastics, a problem we have been railing against since Alan Weisman first published his essay “Polymers Are Forever,” in 2007, where we first learned about the persistence of microplastics and their infiltration into the marine food chain.

“Plastic is still plastic. The material still remains a polymer. Polyethylene is not biodegraded in any practical time scale. There is no mechanism in the marine environment to biodegrade that long a molecule.” Even if photodegradable nets help marine mammals live, he concluded, their powdery residue remains in the sea, where the filter feeders will find it.

“Except for a small amount that’s been incinerated,” says Tony Andrady the oracle, “every bit of plastic manufactured in the world for the last fifty years or so still remains. It’s somewhere in the environment.”

The official Earth Day organization is “demanding a 60% reduction in the production of ALL plastics by 2040. Our theme, Planet vs. Plastics, calls to advocate for widespread awareness on the health risk of plastics, rapidly phase out all single use plastics, urgently push for a strong UN Treaty on Plastic Pollution, and demand an end to fast fashion.”

But the plastics lobby is back at it with a television campaign touting the benefits of recycling and they are even sticking with the arrow motif! 

The American Beverage Association (Coca-Cola, Keurig, Dr Pepper, Pepsi) is calling it Every Bottle Back, and this is just as cynical and useless as when the industry first invented the original recycling campaign back in the 1980s, with its chasing arrows.

But the whole recycling program with its ‘chasing arrows’ numbers was a scam. From All Things Considered on NPR,

. . . the industry promoted recycling as a way to beat back a growing tide of antipathy toward plastic in the 1980s and ’90s. The industry was facing initiatives to ban or curb the use of plastic. Recycling, the former officials told NPR and Frontline, became a way to preempt the bans and sell more plastic.

I fell for this swindle . . . for decades. But never mind my wounded pride, the world is paying a terrible price, and it is now projected that by 2050 global production of plastic production will have tripled. For more, watch Frontline’s “Plastic Wars.” There is no market for the small amount of reusable plastic that we produce. Many recycling plants have closed.

It’s not easy getting plastic out of one’s life but we can start by throwing those damn Keurigs in the trash. And we could outlaw the nips. I’ll work on my fast fashion.

I have high hopes for the plastic-eating wax worms . . . please hurry. (NYT 4.12.23)

There is no recycling our way out of this. We can only: Reduce! Reduce! Reduce!