The last blog I wrote was in anticipation of my trip to Colorado to see our new Grand-daughter, predictively I have to say I am one proud Grandfather, she is the cutest. I don’t post photos of the grandkids, we have around 25 of them. With the way the world is today, I just don’t think it’s the safest thing to do.
That had to be mentioned, the blog had to do with San Francisco International Airport, (SFO) and the ban on single-use plastic. The expectation was some sort of social disruption, demonstrations, angry people, and outrageously priced bottles for water. The evening news made it a big deal, oh boy the disruption that was to occur. I didn’t see any of it, in fact, a new realization came to me, this is the only airport to ban them.
People were arriving carrying plastic bottles of water, then walking all around the tarmac and still tossing them in the re-cycle cans. The awakening came when the realization that there is no way SFO can dictate what happens at other connecting airports; what are they suppose to do confiscate them on arrival? Then toss them in the bin, I think not.
The problem isn’t single-use plastic, it’s how to dispose of them after use. One root cause is most of the recycling companies are going out of business because the price per ton to re-sell is nearing zero. Until January 2019 China was in the “We’ll take it all” mode as far as plastic, paper, and cardboard is concerned, however, they faced one major hurdle. People, the obstruction is people, we sent everything to that country unsorted and contaminated.
The stuff doesn’t have to be rinsed, crushed, or punctured it merely needed to be sorted. We as a society are incapable of performing that task, it’s not just the people, the system is to blame as well. Let’s start with the population, we put toxic waste in bottles, everything from bodily fluids to dioxin containing substances; it was making the Chinese workers ill, some catastrophically. China had to protect its people so they stopped taking the recycled materials.
There are many grades of plastic, some cannot be re-used, some can be in special applications, and some may be used in nearly all recycled products. But it needs to be sorted which is time-consuming and in the case of China’s take all policy, dangerous to the workers. It can only be reused so many times, like paper, 3 times maximum then it is spent. The inevitable is delayed.
It’s still plastic no matter what we do with it, there is no way to rid the planet of the stuff. Some good fabrics are made from recycled plastic, or what can be recycled. Draperies, garments, shoes, and bulletproof vests are a few, these items are more likely to end up in the trash dumps than the bottles and packaging materials because after all, it’s just clothing or drapes. There it will be for the next 1,000 years or so breaking down into micro-beads finding it’s way into our food chain, water, and animals gullets. There is nothing that is able to break it down into environmentally friendly refuse. This stuff has seen wide-spread use for less than 75 years, yet it’s destroying the planet, sadly it may already have.
I don’t know what the answer is, but one thing is for sure the corporations, government, and the population of the world need to wake up and admit there is a problem. Is it a case of out of sight out of mind? It sure appears to be, but some scientists are working on solutions. One is a bacteria has been developed that eats the stuff, I don’t know what comes out in the end but it’s certainly promising.
Pepsi and Coke have left the plastics industry lobbying firms and have begun looking for alternative packaging. That is a good start as they are the originators of much (not all by any means) of the waste. It’s time for the corporations to accept responsibility, step up to the plate with some real solutions. It’s my opinion that could become a powerful marketing tool, it’s not hard to imagine the various slogans that would paint a positive picture.
It’s not all up to them, we all must take responsibility also, just because the blue bin is for plastics it doesn’t mean all plastics, we need to learn how to sort. More bins are needed, as well as the category’s of plastics clearly marked on each and every bottle, bag, and package.
Part of the solution is to charge higher deposits on all recyclable materials, to make it worthwhile to collect would be a giant step forward. During the times’ glass bottles were used for Pop (Sodas to Westerners) the deposit was a nickel a bottle. It doesn’t sound like much now but during the 1950s’ and 60s’ it was a considerable amount. Take into consideration a bottle of Coca-Cola and a large Snickers bar would cost 30¢, in today’s prices it would be over $2.00. The deposits in today’s money would be between 25¢ and 30¢ per bottle, it’s a little eye-opening. Kids in that period would search high and low for bottles, I was one of them, there were no empty bottles on the streets in those days. As I remember the broken bottles were accepted also; but that was when to be called a litterbug was nearly fighting words.
What do we toss in the recycling bin? Food, Toxic waste, plastic bags, styrofoam and nearly everything including re-usable plastic. Part of the toxins is what we store in the containers after the initial use, although it is a small amount in most cases when combined with all of the others it is a substantial amount. Mixed together they form swill creating an unknown chemical compound. Sometimes they form in our own recycle containers without our knowing. It seems like an insurmountable task to educate the entire world the proper handling of plastic waste, in reality, it may just be.
At a Brewery in Denver, it has to connect to the trip last weekend, we had an unbelievable waiter, his name was Dave and full of energy and stories. I don’t drink alcohol, most breweries make root beer it’s normally very good, Dave handed me a straw that will decompose in 30 days, I was pleased with that. He explained the recycling program they have and how very little goes to the trash can, they have stopped using all plastics. Is that what it’s going to take, every restaurant refusing to use plastic straws, doggy bags, and carry out containers? It’s not a boycott or anything of the sort it is just responsible management of our home planet.
Dave told me some waste food goes to the trash which lit up my passion. Earthworm farming, I envision a gigantic worm farm on the roof converting all of the non-recyclable waste into organic fertilizer. Everything that is except plastic, but that’s another blog for another day.
One more thing about Denver, there is a closely guarded secret, they have the perfect weather, it is beautiful weather. They told me not to tell anyone, for the past 250 years no one has, until today, I’m the rat.
Jacques Lebec Natural Self Reliance