Well of course the instant, totally rational answer is, ‘yes, it’s a terrible problem’, which, of course, is a perfectly logical reaction to what we see in the media: TV, newspapers, social media, the web etc.
But is it the real problem? After all, plastic is an amazing material. It pervades every aspect of our lives in a vast array of different forms. It is light, transparent, waterproof, malleable, rigid, colourful, high durability, resistant to chemicals, easy to manufacture, water resistant. No wonder it’s so popular! Just think of the amount of plastic that you use on a weekly basis: bottles, bags, food wrappings, storage containers, garden chairs, toys, buckets, drinking containers, furniture foam, pipes, garden houses, etc, etc. What would we do without it?
But surely, you ask, you only have to look at our streets, beaches, almost any public space, woodlands, hills, even high mountain paths to find discarded plastic waste. However, is that the fault of plastic? No, of course it isn’t. Where, therefore, does the blame really lie?
I would venture an obvious one to begin with…
The plastic rubbish that surrounds us, and fills our oceans, is our fault because of what we do with the it once we’ve finished using it. Every day on the beach and its locality we find discarded plastic of a huge variety: bottles, food wrapping, bags, toys, balloons, fishing line, crabbing buckets etc., and that’s despite there being rubbish bins located just metres away. Even if we want to dispose of it carefully, and ensure it is recycled, depending where we live, we can’t recycle all the plastic we need to dispose of. Many councils, for whatever reasons, have poor facilities for recycling. For instance, the only plastic products our very own council can recycle are plastic bottles!
Secondly I would suggest that the other area of blame lies full and squarely with the manufacturers of plastic, many of whom are large, powerful, enormously wealthy and politically connected. They developed plastics of an enormous variety with absolutely no thought as to what would happen to it, other than dumping it in landfills, once its useful life was over, and some plastic products’ life-spans end 10 minutes after we purchase them (food packaging and plastic cups for instance). Their neglect and lack of forethought has now come back to haunt us and poison our environment, from the tops of mountains to the depths of the oceans.
So, our titular question, ‘Is Plastic The Problem?’, is simple answered, ‘No’.
We are the problem, and the problem is getting worse and is only going to be solved by us. So, rather than bleating about the problem, let’s get down to finding solutions, locally, nationally and internationally! And it starts with me, and it starts with you!
The New Brighteners