Some thoughts on plastics

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

August 31, 2008

Some folks, when discussing ‘going green’, emphasize the extreme holistic side of going green. They would like everyone to stop what they are doing and convert most everything away from anything deemed harmful. For example, plastics are a big no-no to these folks. Granted, much can be said about the evils of plastics, such as the creation of PVC. For example, Judith Helfand does a fantastic job describing the intricate lifestyle of vinyl in her documentary Blue Vinyl. In this film, Helfand raised some interesting and poignant questions such as, “What’s the Average Joe supposed to really do to get out of these vicious cycles?” The green folks who would like us to abandon plastics all together often don’t seem to address these types of questions well, if at all.

Plastics, it is argued, are bad for us, for our environment, and our psyche. But, we must contend that plastics are here and we do need to do something with them. So, if we’re not to use them, then what? A very important part of ‘going green’ is closing the loop on our production and consumption. If we abandon one side of production in favor of another, we must close the loop on the abandoned side and ensure a closed loop system for the favored side. So, although folks may feel plastics aren’t for them, we still have a larger societal wide concern with what to do with those pesky plastics.

One way to close the loop on production systems is to remember the quaint coined phrase, “Reduce, Reuse & Recycle.” First, we must reduce our impact on the earth, which means simply not wasting as much as before. And, if at every level we are continuously reducing our waste, we won’t be satisfied until we get our waste as close to zero as possible. Second, we must reuse what we have until it is no longer usable. In the case of plastics, many of us have become accustomed to using plastic for things like food storage. Reusing means reusing that same Ziploc container over and over until it can no longer store food or anything. If certain greenies desire total abandonment of said Ziploc container, that should raise a red flag about their true intentions. Lastly, the 3Rs instruct us to recycle that which we have not reduced and is no longer suited for reusing. Previous posts direct Portland residents where to recycle these pesky plastics. And, rest assured, when recycling with the Master Recyclers, many of the plastics to be recycled are turned into wood-composites suitable for fences, benches, and other household improvement projects.

The moral of this diatribe is to close the loop on our systems so we are not impacting the earth more than we already are. If we take from what is already extracted, we won’t have to extract more from our limited and prescious resources. If someone, then, suggests to you to abandon all your plastics, remind them that the 3Rs come first and once your loop is closed you will find alternatives should you desire them.


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