We live in a world full of single-use plastic, but should we?

In 1907, the world as we knew it changed. Dr. Leo Baekeland invented Bakelite, the world's first entirely synthetic plastic. It was created to help us, not to harm us or the planet. Remember, every piece of plastic ever made still exists in one form or another. 

In 1939, DuPont released nylon for sale as a synthetic hosiery but ended up being used by the US Military for parachutes and ropes. Very practical uses and what it was originally designed for, to help and to last forever.

According to thisisplastics.com, a 1940 Popular Mechanics article published an article stating "Clothed in plastics from head to foot, the American of tomorrow will live in a plastics house, drive a plastics auto and fly in a plastics airplane." We are now wearing clothing made with plastic (some recycled) and living in houses full of plastic and our cars are made of plastic. 

Plastic became the material of choice because it was affordable, durable and everywhere. It has it's place and can be used for some amazing things like space suits! Our eyewear is plastic to make it lighter. Our technology has plastic all around it to make it work better. Plastic reusable bags were invented to help with deforestation from all of the single-use paper bags we were using up. The initial intent was good...and still can be. We just need to be aware of what we are doing and hold producers accountable.

In the 1980's, the plastics industry came up with a great plan in response to public backlash, to recycle plastic to keep it out of landfills that were filling up fast and to keep using the same resource over and over. Sounds great right? 

Plastics are notoriously difficult to recycle. A PET bottle cannot be recycled with an HDPE bottle and many plastics are made by using various additives and mixing different plastics making it extremely difficult to recycle. 

image from "The Fraud of Plastic Recycling"

Recycled plastic is more expensive and lower quality than virgin plastic. According to CalRecycle's website, AB 793 requires beverage manufacturers that use plastic to be 15% recycled plastic by 1/1/22, 25% recycled plastic by 1/1/25, and 50% recycled plastic by 1/1/30. This will help the demand of recycled plastic and increase the value for recycling centers to actually recycle the plastic. This is a big win for us in California! The more we demand better and vote with our dollars, the higher chance we can leave this place a little better!

The plastics industry knowingly lied to us about recycling and contamination and now we are working toward how to live with plastic in our lives. Literally everywhere in our lives. 

We are so fortunate to live in a state where they try to recycle as much as possible and provide curbside recycling, laws are in place to help us reduce the waste, and people WANT to do better. This isn't the case everywhere. 

The largest plastic producers (Exxon, Mobil, DuPont, Dow) invested millions of dollars into various aspects of plastic recycling and public relations to convince the public that recycling is "good". Imagine if they put that much effort into figuring out how to use less of it? Or better yet, how to convince us we need less of it.

Plastic may have been invented before we were born but the issues it presents are happening now, on our watch. 

Since the 1950's, over 8 billions tons of plastic have been generated around the world with the majority of it produced just in the last 10 years. 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide EACH YEAR! I hope these stats are helping you to make a conscious effort to remember you reusable bags as often as possible. 

We get it, plastics have a place in the world but single-use plastics do not. 

We can collectively put pressure on the industry, the industry leaders, and our elected officials to help ban single-use plastic. We can vote with our dollars, vote in elections, and reduce the amount of new plastic created just so we can toss it into the waste stream after one use. 

We have the power to change this.

Will you help reduce the usage of single use plastic? Will you reuse whatever you can? Will you vote to elect officials that stand up for our right to live in a world with less waste?

The plastics industry would like us to continue to use virgin plastic just one time. Let's all stand up and say no to single-use!

Knowledge is power. This post was inspired after reading The Fraud of Plastic Recycling by The Center for Climate Integrity. There are links to documents with great detailed information on the history of plastic as well as sharing which organizations to watch out for who are being sneaky about greenwashing along with some documentary evidence showing how we were lied to all these years.


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