It is easy to get bummed out by the amount of plastic the world throws away. All it takes is one look at pictures of the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch to get yourself all worked up in an anti-plastic rage. It is not so easy to step back and take an honest look at how much we depend on plastic in the modern era. Suffice it to say that a world without plastic would be so much different.
The newly-woke culture we find ourselves in takes solace in the fact that we can cause enough ruckus to get plastic straws banned. But creating bogeymen and banning their products has never solved a single problem. It never does. Where plastics are concerned, the only way to solve whatever problems exist is to do a better job of dealing with unwanted materials.
We All Depend on Plastic
Railing against plastic straws in the ocean doesn’t take much. Anybody with a voice and a bit of pent-up anger can do it. A much harder task is to cut the rhetoric and calmly admit that we all depend on plastic. Admitting to such an inconvenient truth makes banning plastic straws seem rather silly.
You and I depend on plastic more than we care to admit. For example, the device you are using to read this post would not exist if it were not for plastics. It matters not whether you are using a smartphone, tablet, or computer. They all contain a significant amount of plastic. From their cases to their circuit boards, plastic is in their DNA.
Do you like to travel? Without plastic, jetliners wouldn’t exist. We would still be flying in relatively small wood and metal airplanes. Our flights would take longer, cost more, and be considerably less comfortable. Without plastic, you could forget cruise ships too.
What are your feelings on shopping for groceries? Going to the supermarket once every week would be out of the question without plastic. You would have to shop every day. Today you might go to the meat market and the bakery. Tomorrow it is the bakery and the fish market. You would have to keep a close eye on your fruits and veggies to make sure you consumed them before they spoiled.
We Romanticize the Past
In an attempt to convince our circle of friends just how bad plastic is, we have a tendency to talk about a world that got along just fine without plastics 150 years ago. But we romanticize the past when we do so. Much of what we take for granted today – in terms of the things we own and the activities we enjoy – did not exist back then. Moreover, life was a lot harder then.
Our hospitals can do what they do thanks to plastics. The same goes for our pediatricians and obstetricians. Most of us rely on a bevy of plastics to do our jobs. In short, plastic is everywhere.
At Seraphim Plastics in Memphis, Tennessee, they have the right idea. They recycle industrial plastics in seven states including Tennessee, Michigan, and Ohio. If we could alter how we manufacture, use, and dispose of plastics to more closely mimic the market Seraphim serves, plastic waste floating in the ocean would be a thing of the past.
A world without plastics would be a vastly different one indeed. That’s not to say that plastics don’t cause problems. They do, but not because of the material itself. The problems are related to how we utilize plastics. Solving our problems means changing our behaviors. It doesn’t require banning plastics altogether.