With what we know about plastic, why are we so content to to keep it around in such a ubiquitous role? Why are the playing cards that were bought in an airport gift shop packaged in a plastic case instead of the traditional cardboard box? The cards will wear out and be thrown away (or recycled), but the box that they came in will last forever. Plastic chopsticks? Plastic toothpicks? Really? And why do we still carry our groceries home in plastic bags?
(And don’t tell me that they are recyclable. Less than 5% of grocery bags nationwide are actually recycled, and even then, they are turned into something else, some other plastic item, that cannot be recycled, that will end up in a landfill. If we’re lucky. Just as likely that the bags will be flushed out to sea, where the impact on marine life is considerable. Likewise, the stories of how so many of these bags are actually reused, as laundry bags or even perchance making another trip to the grocery store, are missing the point. Certainly, the argument that these bags are needed to pick up after our dogs is an especially telling point of view. If it’s really true that we feel the need to enshrine our pet’s excrement in an impervious layer of polymer in order to live a full and comfortable life then we, as a society, may need to do some serious self-examination.)
That there are legitimate uses for plastic is not in doubt. Parts for artificial hearts, dialysis machine components, but… We leave in two weeks and I know that, when we get to where we’re going, we’ll find plastic. I don’t know how much and I don’t know what kind, but just knowing that this is the case makes the questions bubble up in my mind.