“In order to properly understand the big picture, everyone should fear becoming mentally clouded and obsessed with with one small section of truth.” -Xun Kuang
Ah, plastic. It’s ubiquitous, it’s versatile, it’s demon incarnate according to environmentalists, which at this point, if you’re wary of environmentalists at all, you should be taking that last part with more than a lick of salt. Plastic has been used for decades now, with both good and bad effects on the environment and human health in general, there’s no denying either. But, as stated above, are plastic the worst thing possible for the environment, destined to kill all marine life on the planet and litter us all into an early grave? Or is there more to plastic than what the average person is told about it? To ask the question, in this format, is to answer it, but answer it I shall!
So let’s get out of the way some of the bad effects. The first thing I usually hear about personally, when someone is angry about using plastic, is the big plastic island in the Pacific Ocean. And to be upfront: I’m NOT in favor of wasting resources to the point that they take up a big chunk of the ocean, poisoning other resources rather than being repurposed for even better uses that benefit everyone, let alone the environment rather than being useless blobs in the ocean at best. You also hear about how plastic containers aren’t biodegradable, meaning they will pollute the land the more we produce, with the call therefore to restrict them, along with a billion other reasons to hate plastic.
It is very rare, as far as I can tell, that the benefits of plastic have been portrayed, which not only shows a very important bias, but also the propaganda that it takes to destroy one of the most important materials on the planet, as far as advancing human life goes. I may go farther into the science behind this, but due to the time I have to put this out I’ll simply make the moral case for it.
So when you want to understand something, you want the big picture scenario of it, the bulk of the details. This does not mean ignoring the details, particularly if they’re pertinent. But when evaluating something that’s in question, you need all of the facts you can muster in order to evaluate it as completely as possible, and act accordingly. So to clarify:what are plastics?
Surprise, to anyone that isn’t an environmentalist that wants wind & solar power to kill us all *coughs loudly*, sorry about that, meant to say save the world: It is a product of hydrocarbons, aka crude oil; one of the most common ones to date, just as important as gas and diesel fuels, which is what most people think of when talking about oil. And as far as it’s usefulness goes, well, if you know anything about the free market (I.E. any transaction you make amongst friends and family), you’d understand that it’s ubiquitousness stems from it’s relative cost of production, along with it’s relative safety (over heating releasing dioxins and BPA’s is another problem brought up, will be addressed later) . From easy access bottles, to sterile linings, from the pouches that protected your latest Amazon purchase to the panels in your car that have lasted decades, plastic has had quite the range of uses over the years, and still does to this day.
You probably don’t hear this part of the equation when talking about plastics; more than likely, you generally only hear about how plastic pollutes the environment, and destroys the ecosystem, by people that are typing on products made of plastic no less. In fact, I’m willing to say it’s a very dishonest portrayal on this or any subject, to only talk about the negative aspects of it while ignoring any of the benefits, if they’re acknowledged at all. It’s not educational to take this type of stance, it’s propagandistic to say the least. And while that may help some people to talk about the negatives and what can be done about them, to bypass the positives and how to make them better, to ignore the big picture, is to the detriment of the entire discussion.
So let’s look at some of the culprits usually targeted when talking about eliminating plastic, the alternatives put forward and the results, and some solutions:
Bags: Oh those seagull strangling grocery holders! People only use them once and then throw them away, if not leave them out on the street for puppies and kittens to choke on (that last part may or may not be true). I do agree that it does no real good to just use something once and throw it away, with few exceptions such as syringes.
Alternatives: Usually paper bags, or the reusable variety, which is also made of plastic. Ignoring that this goes just a little bit against the “Save The Trees” narrative, paper has the advantage of being a renewable and biodegradable resource compared to plastic. The disadvantage would be that it is far more brittle than plastic, meaning either you need more material to match the strength of even the thinnest plastic bags, or you need more than one bag, lest you risk dropping all of your groceries on the floor, creating a lot more waste, to say nothing if anything liquid leaks into them (of note, this is just another reason condoms aren’t made from trees). Either way, they still take far more energy to make than plastic, bringing us to reusables: they’re promoted as an alternative to the plastic ones you throw away, which would be more cost effective, provided you use them up to a hundred times because that’s what it takes to break even keeping them around, if they aren’t a wreck by then. Furthermore, though most people don’t, they need to be washed out between uses, meaning either you wash them out which comes with it’s own use of resources, or you don’t and risk getting a side of delicious salmonella with your unwashed grapes.
Solutions: If you want to get more uses out of them, the obvious one is a small trash can liner, along with carrying other things with them (I use plastic bags to carry clothes and tools, for example). Also of note, you can recycle them to be reused in another form, or simply build an energy plant that can use them as fuel, since after all, sanitary as they are, they are petroleum products, and actually burn more efficiently than some fossil fuels.
Food/beverage containers & utensils: another big source of litter, the most famous one being the 6-pack ring that murders sea life. It’s hard to make the case for reusing plastic wrappers since most are designed to be single use anyway, but there aren’t too many alternatives to speak of that don’t come with the same problems that finding replacements for bags are, from expense to sanitation; this is among the many reasons restaurant prices are going up, for starters.
Solutions: The easiest would be to do what I usually do, which is shop the perimeter of the grocery store and make meals at home; that cuts out a lot of junk food that usually comes in plastic packaging, and has the benefit of helping you shed a few kilos. Additionally, some can be reused, water bottles in particular: many are thrown out after drinking; I reuse mine, only needing to spray them down with alcohol after a few uses. Many cups and even utensils can also be cleaned and reused fairly easily, especially for situations where you wouldn’t mind breaking or losing them as much (example: on a camping trip vs eating at home). But wait, you may be asking: isn’t eating with plastic harmful to your health?
BPA: Like many things people make a hysteria over, this compound found in plastic has been claimed with many maladies such as cancer, heart disease, and even hormonal damage, to the point that there was a huge movement to remove them from baby bottles and other infant products. I don’t remember every detail on why PBA was the devil that the Hysteria Of The Moment (there was some study on frogs that involved feeding them a lot of the compound, far more than they would ever get, with predictable results), but I do know that there are entire websites devoted to debunking the myths on how BPA will murder your children, one of which will be linked to below. It should be noted, since the biggest story behind BPA was how it could mess up the hormones of developing children, that this is what was targeted, rather than the 500 Billion % increase in soy in just about everything else, that does far more damage in that respect than BPA ever could, if BPA even does what the alarmists say.
Other Free Market Solutions: Otherwise known as solutions that don’t involve guns! Do you want to see less plastic waste and pollution, along with the death and destruction it causes? If so, great! I’m right there with you: let’s make the environment even better! So if you don’t like companies like Starbucks using plastic straws, you can ask for a container that doesn’t need one, in fact they’re working on that at the time of this writing. You can let the place you’re getting a drink from know that you don’t want a straw, or that you brought your own.It goes beyond Starbucks obviously: Every company that is customer serving is subject to said customers; if you, the customer, demand something else than a petroleum product, you’ll get what you want: it’s why McDonald’s actually started selling salads despite all logic of what McDonald’s is known for. Also of note: If you really want to help clean up the environment on top of the other ways, maybe look into getting a bracelet from 4Ocean.com; they actually do go out and clean up the ocean, without even taking government money, as far as I can find at least. This is far more effective than, say, imposing a straw ban, along with other regulations on products that restaurants have to pass the costs off onto you just to stay above water. Which brings me to….
Consequences of banning plastic: One of the most obvious effects I touched on earlier is that, since restaurants in Seattle, California, New York and other socialist hell holes are being forced to use “renewable/biodegradable” utensils instead of the type they chose for a reason, their costs as far as to go order materials has gone up between 2-5 times compared to the plastic variety. But trying to ban plastic has far more reaching effects than making your frappe more expensive, let alone making you look like a fucking toddler because you’re now using a sippy cup: plastic has been used to make a lot of things more sanitary. Let’s take straws, for example, since they’ve been targeted by otherwise useless people as litter: sure, they tend to be one use products, and do end up being litter. But, Starbucks drinks in the U.S. aside, that’s actually a very hygienic way to consume a drink, whether it’s water or a sugar bomb; even if it’s thrown away to strangle a dolphin or something, the costs of that pale in comparison to what diseases you might get if you’re in an environment that is dirty enough to make straws a sanitary solution.
Expanding on that, how many plastic products keep humans alive and kicking today? First thought is IV bags: good luck making those out of wood or hemp. Same for phones, computers, car parts, camping equipment, filters, even gun parts for the gun nuts: wherever you go in a developed place, plastic has a very prominent place as a building material. A quick side story involves Tom Leykis and his FJ Cruiser: I haven’t looked this up just yet so take this with a grain of salt, but apparently his truck was targeted by rats, not just because it was a spacious place, but because Toyota moved away from plastic based wiring insulation to soy-based, which attracts rats far better than the petrol based variety (yes, soy ruins things once again).
There’s at least another 20,000 words of content I can put on this, but I get the feeling there’ll be another story on plastic that I’ll have to cover, so let’s stop here. After all, don’t you have some groceries to get?
Alternatives To Plastic:
Burning Plastic For Energy:
Soy Wiring and Rodents: http://www.thedrive.com/news/20878/rodents-are-feasting-on-newer-cars-soy-based-wiring-insulation
Steel Velcro: https://geekologie.com/2009/09/steel-velcro-because-plastic-i.php
Pic Credit: https://fakingdaily.com/2018/04/02/housewives-ask-maharashtra-govt-to-extend-deadline-on-plastic-ban-say-it-will-take-time-to-clear-up-bags-kept-under-sleeping-mattress/