Much is being written and said about plastic bags and the harm it causes our environment. I think we can all agree that the number of plastic bags used by our society and plastic products that are part of our daily lives, is staggering and can seem overwhelming to get a grip on or to find a solution to our dependence on plastic. Let’s face it; it would take a revolution and true commitment and effort on an entire nation – not to mention the world – to stop using plastic. Plastic is a bi-product of our addiction to ease and having the least amount of effort in our everyday lives. Included in the mesh of issues related to plastic and its use is price. Plastic is cheap and allows for savings in the production of products in the immediate. The cost, however, in the long run to our environment and the energy consumed and petroleum used is high. As consumers, looking to save as much as possible, the immediate is of most concern. I think we can all understand and agree on that. However, long term costs need to become part of our thinking process and a recognition that the costs are payable today or tomorrow.
The choices that we currently have are not many, but choices as consumers we do have. What we fail to realize is that as consumers our voice can be loud and the manufacturers would be forced to listen. Pricing would be adjusted to meet the demand and an increase in available choices would be possible, if we as consumers demanded it. In the past four years, the number of available options has increased. Today corn-based plastics and other alternative materials are commonly spoken of and available in the market place. These alternative materials, such as bagasse (sugar pulp based) and bamboo and many others are not a foreign concept. Many of us have seen them and are now familiar with their durability and usage. Because of our awareness and demand for these alternative products, more have become available. Simply, that is how the market works.
So, what are our current options when it comes to plastic? As a first step, consumers have to make a choice to use recycled products only. Let’s start there. It is a first step, but a significant one. If as a society we demanded only recycled products then we could start eliminating the plastic waste that we consume and continues to be manufactured every day. Of course that would mean that we would have to also demand and expect to have recycling programs in place that would allow for recycling to be “easy” for us all to do. We can ask that our local municipalities provide recycling bins that are placed in our local communities next to other waste containers. This is commonly seen in other parts of the world, such as Europe. It is a one-time initial cost, but with long-term savings and a means to a larger goal for our environment. Recycling and composting programs should be made accessible, feasible to commercial establishments and reliable. Approximately sixty-percent (60%) of the waste thrown away today could be recycled. A survey was done and 9 out of 10 people surveyed said they would recycle more if it was easier. Lets make it easier, but lets commit to doing it. A lot of statistics are thrown out there and are now ignored, but lets consider that for every one (1) ton of plastic that is recycled we save the equivalent of two (2) people’s energy use for 1 year, the amount of water used by 1 person in 2 month’s time and almost 2000 pounds of oil.
What else can we do? We can start buying products that are made from alternative materials such as corn-based, sugar-pulp and bamboo. These materials are not a panacea for all that is wrong with our consumption of goods contained in plastics, but it is a start. In an “ideal” world we would have a bio-based material that would not be reliant on a food source, but it is a start. Our reliance and proliferation of petroleum-based plastics should start to come to an end. We know its harmful effects on our environment as well as our global and political choices made based on our dependence on petroleum. Lets stop buying products that are contained in petroleum-based plastics and seek products that are contained in recycled or alternative plastic materials. If we demand it, it will be manufactured.
Lastly, spread the word and make recycling part of your everyday life. It may take an additional step in separating your waste, but it is worth it. Share your thoughts with your neighbors and friends. Ask that your local government listen and that recycling program be part of your city.
There are no easy answers or successes that are not met by challenges and a commitment by a society to want better for our future. It is a national issue that has finally come to a forefront in our consciousness. The good news is that there are options available and as consumers we can make a choice and manufacturers and our government will listen if we are willing to take a stand and demand that more is done.
SimBio USA, Inc., is in the business of sustainable alternative products. Our product line consists of alternative biodegradable/compostable plastic products. SimBio USA’s mission is to make environmental progress feasible, beneficial and profitable by offering alternative green products for consumers and industries.