Monday, January 23, 2012

Life, Plus or Minus Plastic

I'm no great fan of plastic. The primary reason for this is because of the role it has played in eliminating the craftsman from the manufacturing process, but also because it promotes the idea of disposability, put another way, waste. Despite this there are some arguments to me made for plastic as a material: There are some jobs for which is plastic is well-suited, and there's just so much of it around - to eliminate it entirely, or to reject it completely is to commit the sin of waste in a different way. The solution, as with so many other issues of technology, is to use plastic wisely and responsibly.

I came at this issue initially intending to eliminate plastic completely. Like many other eco-minded Americans, I started by amassing several canvas bags to use in place of plastic grocery store bags. This led to the surprising discovery that I really depended on platic bags, and had used them in numerous applications from ad hoc waterproofing material, to pipe patches, to well... bags for carrying all sorts of things. In fact, I found that of all the platic items I encountered in modern American life, those ubiquitous and scandalous plastic bags were one of the items I was most likely to reuse and repurpose. So I've struck a compromise: I try to reduce the number of plastic bags I consume, but rather than suffer a guilt attack everytime I end up with one, I save them as a precious resource, and re-use them.

Lately I've been shopping around alot for household items, and stocking up a pantry. As much as possible, I look for non-platic solutions to my household needs. Still, I find plastic is everywhere, and trying to boycott plastic is even harder than trying to boycott Chinese-made goods. At this point, I'm not even sure that it can actually be done. Still, I believe that just because I can't do everything doesn't mean I can't do anything at all. Just because I can't eliminate plastic doesn't mean that I can't reduce the amount that I use, and that I can't use it responsibly when I do.

A simple example will suffice I think. Water bottles. Water is my beverage of choice when I'm not drinking coffee or tea. When purchasing bottled water, plastic is almost always involved. Generally speaking, I don't buy bottled water, more because it's simply filtered tap-water, and thuse represents a near 100% profit margin for the bottlers. Instead, I have one of those water pitchers with the filter, and have a selection of permanent water bottles made from a variety of materials - some are stainless steel, and others are nalgene plastic - but even the stainless water bottles aren't plastic free, because the tops are made of plastic. The water pitcher and the filter assembly are... made of plastic.

Whether I like it or not, plastic is, and, for the immediate future, will remain part of my life.

No comments:

Post a Comment