The Untruths of Recycling

June 16, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

One week ago, I would have purchased plastic champagne flutes for our office celebration next week. I would have placed them in a recycle bin and would have felt like I did the right thing.  I used plastic, but I recycled it.

Alas, six days ago, we absentmindedly started a BBC documentary (War on Plastic with Hugh and Anita), and after just one episode, I cannot stop thinking about it.  Everywhere I go, I hear Hugh and Anita's voice, and everywhere I see single use plastic, I truly feel angry.  I feel angry at myself for being ignorant.  I feel angry that supermarkets are deceiving us.  I feel angry that the current political administration isn't doing anything about this. I feel angry that I can't change the world by myself.

Did you know that even though I (an avid recycler) place recyclable items in the recycle bin, a lot of this isn't actually recycled? Instead, the UK pays a developing country to take these items off their hands (don't worry America -- you are just as, if not more, guilty!).  Instead of choosing a country that has the right facilities in place to recycle the items -- or gosh forbid, put the infrastructure in ourselves! -- we choose the cheapest place we can ship things.

China has wised up and has stopped accepting plastic from America and the UK, but now beautiful countries like Malaysia and Thailand see this as a revenue stream.  Malaysia does not have the infrastructure to process the amount of plastic, so this is the result...

So let's put this in perspective... How often do you go to the grocery store to pick up two bell peppers or a random grocery item?  Does it go something like this?
 

  • You see there is a package of three peppers all ready for you.  This may be cheaper if you actually needed three, but you only needed two.  You buy it anyways... wrapped in plastic. 
  • Or you only need two, and so you pick up two loose peppers.  You then place them inside a cellophane bag provided to you by the grocery store.  Why? Because you were taught to do this.
  • And when you pick up meat and you place it in a plastic bag before placing it in your cart? 
  • And when you buy single wrapped snack cheese covered in single use plastic instead of picking up a block of cheese and cutting it yourself? 
  • And when you deliberately pack your groceries with an item or two in each bag, so you have some extra plastic bags to take home for single use? 
     

Sound familiar?  Yeah, me too.  I'm so disappointed in myself, but I can only promise to be better.  

What other changes can you make today that will make a difference?
 

  • Use reusable shopping bags -- preferably ones that are not made of plastic.
  • Buy your meat at a meat counter and ensure it is wrapped in paper.
  • Commit to limiting your bottle usage - soda bottles, shampoo bottles.  Consider bar soap instead of bottled soap, or at least the very least, refill/reuse the bottles.
  • Ask for paper straws and refuse to use plastic ones
  • Rent glassware for parties instead of using plastic cups/plates/flatware
  • Donate plastic decorations or home decor instead of throwing it away because you don't want it anymore
  • Don't buy single use decorations -- invest a little more and save the items for next year
  • SHARE THIS MESSAGE! We can't sit idle and hope that someone else is going to fix this problem.  The more people that are aware of the issue, the quicker the change.
     

If you think this is an inconvenience, then I need you to watch the documentary.  I need you to remember that people live in Malaysia.  I need you to realise it is the 21st century, and we are responsible for the planet. I need you to think about the turtles and penguins that are dying.  I need you to have compassion.

As for me, I have a call to make to a local store that I can rent glass champagne flutes -- five more minutes of my time = 50 less pieces of single use plastic in the world.

 

For more information watch the documentary - BBC One War on Plastic  (Episode one aired 10 June, episode two set to air tomorrow 17 June and episode three is scheduled to air 24 June)

Short video: War on Plastic
 


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