It’s Time We All Woke Up to the Perils of Plastic by Robin Trimingham

Given the intense heat of the last couple of weeks I have been spending quite a bit of time hiding indoors watching YouTube videos on various aspects of minimalism, downsizing, up-cycling, tidying, sustainability and veganism.

Sensing a “save the Earth” theme yet?

Years ago, long before I had any idea of the gravity of my statement, I used to joke that in 2,000 years when archaeologists excavate the Pembroke Marsh, instead of shouting eureka when they unearthed an intact object, there would be a palatable hush as they gingerly passed an empty shampoo bottle from one to the next and whispered, “Look … plastic … and it’s soooo well preserved!”

It bothers me a little now that my joke is no longer funny but is still entirely true. It bothers me more that we are all choking the air and our planet with this toxic stuff that didn’t even exist 100 years ago and nobody seems to be able to make it stop.

I myself admit to being something of a hypocrite — the bulk of my work is made possible by devices that are largely made of plastic. Everything from my mobile phone to my laptop, monitor, mouse, headset, video camera, lighting equipment and air-conditioning remote are all loaded with the stuff. I can preach sustainability and bamboo toothbrushes (we’ll get to that in a future article) all day long, but if one of these trusty work tools packs it in, it will be on its way to Tynes Bay faster than you can say polypropylene.

To make matters worse this noxious substance is lurking in all sorts of places you might never expect these days. Did you know, for example, that polythene plastic is frequently the secret “gum base” ingredient in chewing gum? (No wonder it never breaks down no matter how long you chew it!)

Or that the paper coffee cups that you have been using everyday are lined with a thin layer of plastic to make then leak proof? Or that your favourite snugly microfiber fleece pyjamas are actually 100 per cent plastic (as are all clothes made entirely of rayon, nylon or polyester). Even your afternoon filter paper tea bag is heat-sealed with polythene, which does not break down when composed.

To quote one sustainability writer that I follow, you have to be realistic regarding what one person can accomplish: “Our current world is just not set up for a zero-waste lifestyle.” Futile as it seems to make any individual effort to counter this global problem, the groundwork for a true zero-waste planet must start somewhere, and there is no reason why the seeds for these ideas can’t be sowed by you.

Maybe we won’t see the end of plastic in our lifetime, but if we don’t even dream of a sustainable, environmentally conscious world, how will it ever happen? If we don’t talk to children about these issues and offer them alternatives to plastic toys and gadgets, how will they grow up to crave anything else? Maybe the laptop case composed of biodegradable cellulose doesn’t exist today, but I know I would buy one if it did. What about you?

By Robin Trimingham

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