Plastics are the cheapest of all fossil fuels and are an increasingly big problem for most developed nations. A common example is PET plastic bottles which are popping up everywhere.
Plastics are bad because, unlike anything else in the world, they cannot be recycled and become an unavoidable feature of every home and business in the developed nations. What a disaster for the developing countries!
The development of plastics is in no way related to their use in food packaging. They are an invention of the west.
So, as we can see plastics are a nightmare of the present and they pose a big problem for the future. They are a product of the industrial age and are ubiquitous in every world and everywhere. What can we do about them?
We can not change them, but we can change our consumption and production patterns. The first step is to change the perception of what is an acceptable amount of plastics. Plastic packaging is only 5% of the total packaging used in the developed nations. The second step is to get out into the shops and demand change!
Plastic bags are the most obvious problem. We’ve all seen them on the roads and even in the shops. We’ve all asked for plastic bags to be banned and told them to bring back cloth bags but not one country has adopted that demand. And worse still there is a strong lobby to introduce more plastic bags into the shops.
The third step is to demand change from the industry and our government. This requires a lot of awareness and a willingness to participate in public debate. We’ve seen a big increase in awareness over the past 5 years, but it is still not good enough. It requires a strong, unified consumer movement that can make demands of the industry.
We need to be wary of politicians who are quick to blame the consumer when things go wrong. We need to remember that the responsibility of keeping the environment clean and green lies with the industry. It is the consumers who have the power to change things through their consumption and their habits.
Plastic (or ‘synthetic’) products are the problem, but so are oil based products and even paper.