Plastic Rich / Plastic Poor

I am reading Susan Freinkel’s book, Plastic, A Toxic Love Story.

The book is comprehensive, and a fascinating read about the history of plastic and products familiar to all of us. It also got me feeling depressed, and then alarmed about the future and the environment my grandchildren will inhabit.

Ms. Freinkel chooses eight objects to help tell the story of plastic:  The comb, the chair, the Frisbee, the IV bag, the disposable lighter, the grocery bag, the soda bottle and the credit card.

She examines how these objects are made, the history, the culture of plastics, and how synthetics affect our health and environment.

There is a comment from a speaker at a plastics manufacturer’s conference in 1956, quoted as saying “Your future is in the garbage wagon”. How true…and it turns out that today, the average American throws away 300 pounds of packaging a year — and this mountain of containers and wrappings accounts for about 1/3 of the municipal waste stream.

Initially, we had to be taught to throw away plastic items — especially after the depression era culture of “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”.

But it did not take long for us to absorb the lessons — especially because everyone was becoming more prosperous — at the same time when many disposable products were entering the market.  Life magazine dubbed this (then) new era “Throwaway Living” .

The thing is…in these modern times, the abundance of plastic waste is not exclusive to a wealthy country like the United States.  Plastic waste is also an issue for the poor.

The difference between the Philippines and the US per capita income is huge.  The Philippines is at $2,007 (US Department of State data – 2010) and the US is at $47,084 (World Bank, 2010 data).

So…you would think that when you don’t have the money to spend on disposable utensils and other disposable conveniences, the issue of plastic trash is minimized.

Unfortunately, that is not the case in a country like the Philippines. Because the poor can afford to buy only the bare necessities…these items are packed in very small, plastic packages.  Snack foods too, are packed in tiny packages, and remnants of these tiny packages are often seen at the beach, by the side of the road…well, all over really.

Can you imagine buying only a clove of garlic, as pictured below, from a local market…

or just enough spice, or salt for cooking the day’s family meal?

or to buy detergent and laundry products to wash just a few items of clothing?

I am part of this plastics generation — and problem — and feel propelled into doing something, before it is too late.

The question is…what can I do…how do I get the word out?  Well, here is a part of getting the word out…PLEASE READ THIS TIMELY BOOK.

~Lola Jane