From wonder product to planetary scourge, plastic has come full circle. How do we help kick the plastic habit?
In the 1967 film “The Graduate,” the one word of career advice given to Dustin Hoffman’s young character is “plastics.” 50+ years later we are starting to comprehend all the damage this wonder product is causing in our world – millions of tons of waste that persist for hundreds of years, breaking down into smaller and smaller particles, leaching chemicals into our bodies and our ground water, killing marine life, birds and animals, and polluting the oceans so that there will be more plastic than fish by weight within 30 years.
More and more people are confronting the ways that plastic, a product of fossil fuels, cause harm. From municipal bans on various kinds of single use plastics, to restaurants switching to paper straws, to stores encouraging customers to bring their own bags, the era of single use plastics is one that needs to be relegated to the past — and quickly.
Philadelphia City Councilman Mark Squilla plans to introduce legislation in the current session of council to restrict single use plastic bags in the city. These bags trash our neighborhoods, and by clogging machinery gears they are the most frequent cause of breakdowns in recycling centers — why plastic bags are not permitted in your street-side recycling.
At a time when China has stopped accepting much of our recycling waste and Philadelphia is reported to be burning half of its collected recyclable materials, it’s time we own responsibility for the waste we generate and for reducing it as much as possible.
At our local food coop, Weaver’s Way, a plastics reduction team of citizens was formed in 2018, led by Weaver’s Way Zero Waste Consultant, Alisa Shargorodsky. The team has been meeting regularly to discuss and research strategies for how the co-op can reduce its use of plastic packaging, and how co-op shoppers can reduce, and even eliminate plastics from their grocery carts and their homes.
What You Can Do
Looking for ways to reduce plastics in your own life? Start by making the package part of every purchasing decision — and tell business managers you prefer minimal packaging that does not include plastic.
Polyester, acrylic, lycra, spandex, fleece and nylon are all plastic fabrics that create microfiber pollution when laundered. Too small to be filtered by water treatment systems, these microplastics pass into our waterways and oceans. Look instead for natural fabrics such as cotton, wool, hemp and bamboo (and even innovative designers upcycling trash into fashion).
For grocery shopping take a supply of reusable bags and cotton produce bags. More and more grocery stores are offering bulk products that you can package in your own containers. A fold-up bag in your purse or backpack will enable you to avoid plastic bags in other types of stores.
If you are interested in learning more about plastics, and particularly about how to reduce plastics in your food shopping and storage, a community forum hosted by the Weaver’s Way committee is coming up on February 7, at Summit Presbyterian Church, 6757 Green Street in Mt Airy (map).
Light refreshments will be provided in keeping with Weaver’s Way’s Zero Waste policy — bring your own food and beverage service ware or rent a set for $1. Proceeds will support the efforts of the committee.