One person interviewed said that the plastics industry isn't evil and planned to swamp the earth with toxic plastic waste, but rather we all got caught up in post war consumerism. Plastic was marketed as the great time saver. Mum's could have more time to themselves because they wouldn't have to wash up. (More time? Yeah right.) And coming from the frugality of the war time, you can understand the desire to have a life that was very different from the reminders of war.
Since then, our desire to accumulate more stuff has grown exponentially. We want our lives to be 'simpler' and require less work so we look for disposable items, pre-packaged foods and other convenience items which means heaps and heaps of plastic being thrown out each day. Even the idea of a plastic bag that is used once then thrown out (or put in a cupboard to multiply) sounds ridiculous when you consider the alternative of a re-usable fabric or canvas bag that can be washed over and over again if needed.
Throughout the documentary, I kept thinking that the problems we have with plastic is not because of the plastic but rather because of our behaviour and attitude towards plastic. If everything that was plastic was made out of say linen, (imagine for a minute that this linen is rigid and is just like plastic - only linen) our attitude to packaging would be very different. Imagine using a tea towel once then throwing it away.
I think plastic has it's place and can be useful (think of tupperware - mmmm tupperware) but we need to let go of the idea of plastic as a disposable substance. Every time you throw out a piece of plastic remember that plastic will always remain plastic - and it has to go somewhere, forever. Now that doesn't sound very disposable.
So, what can we do about it?
I understand that changing the way you think as well as unconscious habits can be extremely difficult, but with some effort on our part there are things we can do.
- Stop excessive buying. Plastic is in everything so the first step is to reduce spending. If you buy less new stuff and repair what you have or search out second hand items, then less plastic will be thrown out and some of the plastic that is out there will remain out of land fill for longer.
- If you do buy something new, choose products that have minimal plastic packaging. The most obvious items would have to be fruit and vegetables that are in a plastic tray and then wrapped in plastic. What's with that? Other things to consider are individual serves of snacks and biscuits. Try to avoid other purchases such as clothing that is wrapped in plastic sleeves.
- When you buy a plastic product that will be thrown out, choose a product that is made from a recyclable plastic. All councils have different plastics they will take for recycling but you can usually check what they are from your local council website (most plastics have a little number on them - that's how you can tell what's what).
Are you getting a theme from the above points? Yep it's Reduce, Reuse, Recylce. A simple but very effective way to solve a lot of our waste issues, not just for plastic.
So why not start reducing the amount of plastic you use today. Say no to a plastic bag. Better yet, keep a plastic bag from home in your handbag or car. That way you will always have a bag with you and you will be keeping one more plastic bag from being tossed away.
If you missed Addicted to Plastic you can check it out on ABC's iView.