Thinking About Plastics

Published August 06, 2018

I know it’s August, but did you know that July was a very special month? Summer vacations, 4th of July celebrations, (and then the creeping realization that summer was beginning to wind down). Here’s one more designation worth adding: “Plastic Free July”.

Started in Western Australia in 2011, this movement has millions of participants in more than 150 countries, according to their web site. Their goal is to build a global movement that dramatically reduces plastic use and improves recycling. During the month of July, we are invited to ‘Choose To Refuse’ single-use plastic.

July is gone, but it’s never too late to refuse single use plastics, like drinking straws, to-go containers, coffee cups, and plastic shopping bags. Anymore, reusable options for these items are readily available. More importantly, it is a matter of making a commitment to carry reusable replacements with you. Every year, people generate more than 2 billion tons of waste, ninety-nine percent of which is discarded within 6 months!

We are frequently led to believe that plastic packaging and consumer goods are recyclable because they have the recycling symbol on them. But that’s not always true in practice. For example, some plastic containers are recyclable, but the inks and labels used on them are problematic. In a recent press release, according to Steve Alexander, president and CEO of the Association of Plastics Recyclers (APR), “At the end of the day, recyclability goes beyond just being technically recyclable. There must be consumer access to a recycling program, a recycler must be able to process the material and there must be an end market.”

Manufacturers must assume more responsibility in making sure their packaging is recyclable in the true sense of the word. I would argue that this is more important than “consumer” behavior. It’s time to keep plastics in a closed loop system and out of the eco-system where it does so much harm. The responsibility begins with the makers of consumer products and should extend through the disposal of their packaging.

Be well,