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Thread: Could you live without plastic?

  1. Top | #21
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    And it's a matter of degree. One needn't eliminate all plastic to make a difference, that would be ideal but doing something is far better than being upset about not eliminating the problem completely.

    I use reusable cloth bags and keep them in the car. If I hit the road on my bike I grab one from the car. It works.

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    One thing to keep in mind is that if you eliminate a plastic item from your life, frequently you have to substitute with an equivalent material that may be worse for the environment. Paper, glass, metal, plant based substitutes...they all have their drawbacks. Its a complex issue, so just don't go strutting around like you're some kind of environmental god, because you've eliminated plastics from your life. You may be in fact, making things worse.

  3. Top | #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by thebeave View Post
    One thing to keep in mind is that if you eliminate a plastic item from your life, frequently you have to substitute with an equivalent material that may be worse for the environment. Paper, glass, metal, plant based substitutes...they all have their drawbacks. Its a complex issue, so just don't go strutting around like you're some kind of environmental god, because you've eliminated plastics from your life. You may be in fact, making things worse.
    This is true. Reducing consumption in general helps reduce waste—but may harm people who are put out of work when demand for the products they make decreases.

    Reusing what you can reduces consumption and further keeps materials out of the waste stream.

    At this point, some believe that our capacity to recycle has been reached. More techniology needs to be developed. All recycling involved energy and water resources.

    There are drawbacks to every voice. But we can make informed, and conscious decisions rather than mindlessly following hav
    Bits that may be wasteful or damaging to the environment.

  4. Top | #24
    Fair dinkum thinkum bilby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thebeave View Post
    One thing to keep in mind is that if you eliminate a plastic item from your life, frequently you have to substitute with an equivalent material that may be worse for the environment. Paper, glass, metal, plant based substitutes...they all have their drawbacks. Its a complex issue, so just don't go strutting around like you're some kind of environmental god, because you've eliminated plastics from your life. You may be in fact, making things worse.
    It's worse than that. Plastics aren't the problem here - littering is the problem. Plastics properly disposed of into well managed landfills have no negative effects on the environment, and represent a small carbon sink, so their overall effect is at least slightly beneficial - even before you factor in the harm done by using less effective substitutes, such as the waste of food that could have been protected by plastic, but wasn't.

    The real issue with plastics comes when they get into the environment in an uncontrolled way - as litter. It is plastic litter that kills wildlife and pollutes our oceans. Plastic litter is a big problem. But it's not one that is significantly impacted upon by asking people to stop using plastic - because the people who stop using plastics to save the environment are the same people who were already careful to avoid littering. The guy who chucks trash out of his car window, or abandons his trash at the beach or in the park when he is done, rather than taking it home, is the same guy who takes no notice at all of greenie campaigns to reduce the use of plastics.

    Giving up plastics has only one benefit - and it's not a benefit to the environment. It makes people who do it feel good, and gives them a nice smug glow of virtue and righteousness.

    These smug gits would improve the environment a great deal more if they kept using plastics themselves, and put their efforts into collecting up litter whenever they see it, and disposing of it properly. But cleaning up after our less civic minded fellow citizens isn't as much fun as berating them for using plastic shopping bags.

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    I'm not trying to give up using plastic. I just never thought about how dependent we are on plastic, until I read about the woman who tried to give up all things plastic, but I kind of doubt she feels "smug". She probably simply feels as if she's trying to do something useful or maybe she's just trying to prove a point. Who really knows what goes on in the minds of others?

    But, along with all the devastating articles that I've read about plastic, I found one from Forbes that pointed out both the awful mess that we've made with our plastic trash, but then offers a possible solution, if one is optimistic.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/grrlsci.../#15db6bcc67a0

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    https://wwf.fi/mediabank/11094.pdf


    The Mediterranean Sea, cradle of civilization and centre of extraordinary environmental heritage, is today one of the seas with the highest levels of plastic pollution in the world.
    Plastics account for 95% of the waste in the open sea, on the seabed and on beaches across the Mediterranean. This waste comes mainly from Turkey and Spain, followed by Italy, Egypt and France.
    Europe is the second largest plastics producer in the world, after China, dumping 150,000-500,000 tonnes of macroplastics and 70,000-130,000
    70-130,000 tons
    .

    The above link is an extremely long report about the harm that plastics are doing. Most aren't biodegradable and while I don't think the US is dumping them into the sea, our landfill are full of them.

    I found that link from a NYTimes article that came out today reporting another whale was found dead with an enormous amount of plastics in its stomach.

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    Arrrrggghhhhh !!! So as a favor to my kid I said I would go gas up their car and while I was out get some groceries on the way home. Before I leave I get the grocery bags from my own car to take with me. However, one of the bags has a tear in it so I get the duct tape out and perform a quick repair. I put he bag on the step by the back door, go into the house to get my keys etc and jump in the car and leave. So I drive to Costco and the gas station is closed, Easter Sunday, shit, grrrrrr. So I get to the store, open the trunk of the car and arrrrrgghhhhh I had forgotten my bags !!! and there are no spare bags in the trunk. I contemplated driving home and getting the bags but decided against it. I had to use two plastic bags for produce, first time in about a year. I was so pissed. When I got home, I immediately put a couple of reusable bags in the trunk of my kid's car.

  8. Top | #28
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    An interesting article in Teh Gruaniad about US plastic recycling;

    What happens to your plastic after you drop it in a recycling bin? According to promotional materials from America’s plastics industry, it is whisked off to a factory where it is seamlessly transformed into something new. A Guardian investigation has found that hundreds of thousands of tons of US plastic are being shipped every year to poorly regulated developing countries around the globe for the dirty, labor-intensive process of recycling. The consequences for public health and the environment are grim.
    Teh Gruaniad

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    I skimmed your link TSwizzle. I did read something a few days ago, that was very similar, as it mentioned how much damage or recycling has done when we ship it to poor countries. It's true that few of us realized until recently how large a problem our plastic usage is for the entire world. Unfortunately, almost everything we buy these days comes in single use plastic. It's a huge problem. Sure, you can use your own bags at the grocery store, but if you buy produce, the only option is to put it in plastic bags, since I only know of one chain that even offers paper bags, and they charge for those. And, even that chain used plastic to wrap things up.

    I can't stop thinking of that line from the 1960,s movie, "The Graduate" where the guy tells Dustin Hoffman's character that the future is in plastics. Little did we know what harm we were about to bring to the world. Hindsight is always 20/20, but we rarely understand the unintended consequences of our behavior until the damage has been done.

    I've cut down on my consumption of many things, but we still need to eat, and use basic things like laundry detergent, shampoo etc. Individuals can't change this. It must come from industry and government. I am not hopeful of that happening anytime soon.

  10. Top | #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by TSwizzle View Post
    An interesting article in Teh Gruaniad about US plastic recycling;

    What happens to your plastic after you drop it in a recycling bin? According to promotional materials from America’s plastics industry, it is whisked off to a factory where it is seamlessly transformed into something new. A Guardian investigation has found that hundreds of thousands of tons of US plastic are being shipped every year to poorly regulated developing countries around the globe for the dirty, labor-intensive process of recycling. The consequences for public health and the environment are grim.
    Teh Gruaniad
    From another article from the same source:

    The proliferation of single-use plastic around the world is accelerating climate change and should be urgently halted, a report warns.

    Plastic production is expanding worldwide, fuelled in part by the fracking boom in the US. The report says plastic contributes to greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of its lifecycle, from its production to its refining and the way it is managed as a waste product.

    This plastic binge threatens attempts to meet the Paris climate agreement. It means that by 2050 plastic will be responsible for up to 13% of the total “carbon budget” – equivalent to 615 coal-fired power plants – says the research published on Thursday.

    The contribution of plastic production and disposal to climate change has been largely hidden, say the authors of the report by the Center for International Environmental Law, which estimates the greenhouse gas footprint of plastic from the cradle to the grave for the first time.

    While plastic pollution in the oceans has become a high-profile concern, the effect on climate change of the ubiquitous use of plastic has not been a focus.
    ...
    “With the petrochemical and plastic industries planning a massive expansion in production, the problem is on track to get much worse.”
    ...
    Throwaway plastic packaging makes up 40% of the demand for plastic, fuelling a boom in production from 2m tonnes in the 1950s to 380m tonnes in 2015. By the end of 2015, 8.3bn metric tonnes of plastic had been produced – two-thirds of which has been released into the environment and remains there.
    ...
    Forty per cent of plastic packaging waste is disposed of at sanitary landfills, 14% goes to incineration facilities and 14% is collected for recycling. Incineration creates the most CO2 emissions among the plastic waste management methods.

    Nearly all plastic – 99% – is made from fossil fuels.

    Refining the material is the most greenhouse gas intensive part of the plastic lifecycle, and major expansions in the US and elsewhere will accelerate climate change, the report says.

    A Shell ethane cracker being constructed in Pennsylvania could emit up to 2.25m tonnes of CO2 each year and a new ethylene plant at ExxonMobil’s refinery in Baytown, Texas, could release up to 1.4m tonnes. The annual emissions from just these two new facilities would be equal to adding almost 800,000 cars to the road, the report says.

    In 2019 the lifecycle of global plastic production – from extraction to disposal – was equivalent to the impact on the climate of 189 500MW coal-fired power stations. By 2050, the report predicts, the global plastic footprint will be equivalent to 615 coal plants running at full capacity.

    “Plastic is among the most significant and rapidly growing sources of industrial greenhouse gas emissions,” the report says. “Emissions from plastic emerge not only from the production and manufacture of plastic itself, but from every stage in the plastic lifecycle – from the extraction and transport of the fossil fuels that are the primary feedstocks for plastic, to refining and manufacturing, to waste management, to the plastic that enters the environment.”

    Carroll Muffett, one of the authors, said: “It has long been clear that plastic threatens the global environment and puts human health at risk. This report demonstrates that plastic, like the rest of the fossil economy, is putting the climate at risk as well.”
    The actual study (for you to read and then pretend you know better) can be downloaded here: Plastic & Climate: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet.

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