…by Meg White
The place Meg puts the stuff she wrote
De-Plasticize Me: Debriefing After a Month Without Single-Use Plastic
Categories: Blog, Greening Me

by Meg White

My month-long ban on single-use plastic is over, and I’m still using my tin lunchbox. But there’s also still a plastic bag soccer ballgiant island of garbage floating in the ocean.

I discussed strategies and got a few tips from resourceful readers along the way. But as a busy person living in a big city with few recycling options, I can only reduce my plastic usage and increase my plastic reuse just so much before driving everyone around me crazy.

It’s great that cities and even entire countries are moving toward banning the give-away, single-use plastic bags that are currently so ubiquitous in most Americans’ lives. But honestly, that’s just a start.

Because my self-imposed bag ban included an inventory of other single-use plastic, I was faced with the realization that plastic is so ingrained in the way we interact with the world as consumers that it’s nearly invisible. Everything from the bagel I had for breakfast this morning to the liner in my kitchen garbage can depends upon single-use plastic.

This whole experiment was about taking a closer look at waste. A good place to start is by examining our society’s addiction packaging materials in general. I wonder how much of our dependence upon packaging is a cleverly-manufactured marketing scheme, anyway.

A tough look at our nation’s penchant for consumerism would certainly help us remember the often-forgotten first of the “three Rs” pledge to reduce the amount we consume in the first place. The mere act of tying the purchase of one item more closely with the disposal in a landfill of whatever that shiny new object is replacing might give us a useful (and money-saving) pause.

Taking a close look at the whole idea of “plastic” could be helpful as well. More and more traditionally plastic items, from water bottles to trash bags, are available in reusable and/or biodegradable form.

However, any worthwhile anti-plastic campaign needs to be a thoughtful one. Switching out plastic in favor of disposable paper bags may create just as much waste: Though perhaps less toxic, it is wasteful of our shrinking natural resources. The approach should be holistic: We need to look at other areas of unnecessary waste, and consider alternatives like composting.

Furthermore, in the rush to demonize plastic, untruths have been circulated that are based on bad science. We shouldn’t let a plastic bag ban become the Holy Grail of environmentalism. Waste reduction is an important step in the greening process, but simply reducing one kind of waste, or relying on recycling alone is not going to solve our massive environmental problems.

Still, thinking more about plastic bags for a month can be a healthy step. It may seem like a silly exercise, but I highly encourage readers to try tallying the amount of plastic they use for a couple of weeks. Consider it an eco-sensitivity training course, if that helps. It gives one a closer approximation of one’s own personal carbon footprint, but it also is a great catalyst for change.


In case you missed it, check out the first, second, third and fourth in the “de-plasticize me” series.

Image courtesy of whiteafrican’s photostream on Flickr.

Originally published at BuzzFlash.com.

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