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We Are Living in a Plastic World

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/09/04/we-are-living-plastic-world

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That virtually of of this plastic entered the ecosystem in the past 70 years means that not only can we do without it but that it one of the most destructive things ever invented by humankind. That we went from there to here in 70 years does not bode well for the next 70 years.

The need to act on this is urgent.

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It is doubtful that plastic can be eliminated entirely. It is useful in may ways. But there is no practical way to recycle it and landfill and open storage just passes the problem on to the next generation. Most garbage should be burned before it is landfilled, this includes plastics. That keeps the stuff out of the ocean and reduces landfill rates dramatically. The immediate cost is some air pollution, but we should be willing to accept some of the costs of our hi-tech environment alongside its many benefits. The best air pollution control is achieved at stationary facilities and that must be part of every garbage burning project. The alternative landfilling everything either doesn’t really happen and fills Asia and Africa with plastic waste or worse, happens and pollutes our groundwater irrevocably…

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Just because we didn’t have something 70 years ago doesn’t really speak to the ease at which we can easily shed the functional category now. We didn’t have the internet or hardly any computers 70 years ago either but it would be a pretty massive change getting rid of those.

I wish Suzuki would use some actual numbers and suggest some of the best solutions. I agree plant based plastics seem like the right answer. There is still a wide variety of chemical compositions and ways to process after usage: mechanical recycling, chemical recycling, and composting are the three I know of. I lean towards composting in industrial facilities and then returning to soil. @Trog had some interesting things to say on chemical recycling (pyrolysis).

It’s quite disappointing to me that most politicians can’t even be bothered with this topic other than banning straws or other really quite insignificant measures. I want to see some serious movement on ideas for solutions.

For those interested our conversation was at ~https://commons.commondreams.org/t/activists-demand-bolder-efforts-to-address-pollution-after-scientists-find-microplastics-in-human-organs/81288/24

I also wrote a bit on bio plastics last year at ~https://commons.commondreams.org/t/plastic-is-just-as-destructive-to-the-climate-as-oil-and-gas/64104/13

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I am far from an expert in this matter, but it seems as if a lot of the war on marijuana was really a war on hemp in disguise. Bring back hemp, which is in large measure a happy-go-lucky weed from what I am told, and herbicides and pesticides could be greatly reduced, carbon could be sequestered, nature-friendly packaging could be developed (hell car fenders were made of hemp at one time if what I have been told is correct). Big Oil would balk. Fuck 'em, we’ve got a Planet and her inhabitants to soothe. If I am on the right track, we need to go back in time and right this wrong and let Nature provide more directly for our needs. If you think about it, in many ways hemp could be considered a renewable resource, not one bound up in the fossil memory of the geologic strata.

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Burning (much higher temps then composting) is not my favorite. Pyrolysis is better but requires a cleaner stream of compatible plastics. It’s hard to burn and meet pollution requirements it seems. So many problems at incinerators that I read about.

Same here. But your point does reinforce my belief that a large part of the plastic chain should be compostable and we mostly give up on mechanical recycling. That way the industrial compost bin which is picked up for industrial scale composting with heat added can include all manner of items including packaging made from hemp, kenaf, or any other plant more directly without a lot of chemical processing.

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Ever go ditch-pigging? It’s a term used by those of us who still respect Gaia and pick up after ourselves and others. I use, reuse, repair, recycle. Nothing is wasted or should be wasted. Organic waste goes into compost, inorganic into the recycling bin.
However, I can easily fill up two large trash bags from the stuff people just throw away. Like…well, paper receipts. Why do we even have those anymore? Truly? If we need records of what we bought, it’s available on-line. The cost is on our credit/debit cards. If we use cash, well…even then, people just throw the receipt away. When I lived a year over in Clio, most people used cash. Period. At the liquor store and the dollar store. The receipt was tossed the minute they left the store, and I picked up their mess and disposed of it properly.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of procedures we do daily that can be eliminated or rehabbed to save resources, time, and energy. If we could sit down and look at the processes and steps involved in everything we do, we would be amazed. For example, how many people just get in their cars and shop because they’re bored? I make one trip a week on foot to buy groceries. Zero added carbon emissions. Anything within a mile is walkable using a shopping cart.
As far as clothing and fashions are concerned…so much of those are composed of microfibers that shed off with every washing and then get into the water and soil. Plus they’re made in overseas sweatshops. Someone bought clothing for me four years ago that’s shredded now. Can’t even use it for cleaning rags or for patches(yeah, remember those? We darned holes in socks and patched holes in clothing). While the sturdy clothing I bought 25 years ago was still in excellent condition, making it tempting for thieves…
A good book that explains how we just sleepwalk through our lives in this culture is Mindfulness by Dr. Ellen J. Langer. It’s not about the Eastern definition of the word. It is about paying attention and parsing actions.

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Tying atmosphere-healing Cannabis agriculture to production of biodegradable plastic made from hemp eliminates several problems at the same time. Gaiatherapeutic industry is our only option. #Cannabis is essential, not illegal. I can’t post a link, but you are invited to do an on-line search for my book, “Cannabis vs. Climate Change” to understand further.

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Ask Du-Pont about saving nature through using chemicals.

They didn’t think about the future ,they only wanted a monopoly and profit.

They manage to outlaw cannabis/Hemp.You couldn’t make it up , now we can see the repercussions of this.

The profit survival mentality is killing us.

I guess plastic is going to be the newest fad in global warming carbon sequestration.

That trade-off is now of dubious value, at least to me. And frankly, it sets the stage for the slippery slope toward actual – not theoretical – disaster that we’re clearly on. Of course, the impending outcome: being forced to do without our hi-tech environment, and much of any livable environment at all, will reveal the folly of your position.

Humans will either evolve, adapt or die. 'Cause ain’t nobody gonna step on the toes of big oil.

The future of humanity lies in a a petri dish. Male sperm counts in the developed world are decreasing by half in each successive generation.

A strange thing has happened to men over the past few decades: We’ve become increasingly infertile, so much so that within a generation we may lose the ability to reproduce entirely. What’s causing this mysterious drop in sperm counts—and is there any way to reverse it before it’s too late?

“There has been a chemical revolution going on starting from the beginning of the 19th century, maybe even a bit before,” she told me, “and upwards and exploding after the Second World War, when hundreds of new chemicals came onto the market within a very short time frame.” Suddenly a vast array of chemicals were entering our bloodstream, ones that no human body had ever had to deal with. The chemical revolution gave us some wonderful things: new medicines, new food sources, faster and cheaper mass production of all sorts of necessary products. It also gave us, Andersson pointed out, a living experiment on the human body with absolutely no forethought to the result.

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It’s always good to give a source for your citation:

~https://www.gq.com/story/sperm-count-zero

The morning sun rose like a blood-red fist this Sunday of dread in the Bay Area. This isn’t some future. This is apocalypse 2017, still hanging around. They say it could get to 115 degrees (F) in Livermore today. Tuesday is looming up like terribly hazardous fire-starting dry-wind weather, except so much is already on fire. We’ve now had nearly three weeks of bad-air days, the longest continuous stretch.

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What’s concerning is how little attention is being paid to this and how most people seem to not care about all the plastics polluting our world. It’s frustrating to go to the store and be about the only one there using reusable bags. It’s also frustrating to see all the plastics being used in home building from plumbing pipes to windows to siding - even the boxes used for wiring a house. Also, you literally can’t go to the store nowadays and buy something that is not packaged in plastic.

A lot of well-meaning people think “well we can just recycle all this plastic”: the truth is plastic can only be recycled once or twice then it has to be down-cycled into lesser products such as fleece fabric, which will eventually be made into something that has to be thrown away. What a mess!

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Also, only a small portion of plastics are actually recycled, something like only nine percent, and some of that is not usable. Much of what’s “recycled” is actually just dumped on poor countries. China shut its doors to plastic “recycling” waste a few years back, so now it gets dumped in Kenya, other African countries, and wherever it can be foisted off.

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~://www.cnn.com/2020/09/06/world/global-woodland-sound-map-trnd/index.html

It is a good thing they recorded the woodland sounds from CA because it will no doubt lose a few of the remaining dots on the woodland map.

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Most homes now have more chemicals under the kitchen sink than in an 1800’s chemical supply store.

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In California, plastic bags were banned about 1-2 years ago. THen the Chinese virus arrived and the wise liberal governor suspended the ban for no logical reason.