A Plastic World

Recently I had watched two documentaries (Link to one of it here) that talk about the same topic. It’s about plastics, and how it ended up into the ocean, into the stomach of wildlife, and eventually it may come a full circle and ended up in our body. I think everyone knows that plastic is bad for the environment, it doesn’t degenerate, it will stay in the soil for almost forever, it’s toxic, it will contaminate the soil and water etc. But I believe most of us just stopped here, knowing the existence of the problem but taken no action to rectify it. Yes, and that include myself.

Isn’t it convenient to just grab a plastic bag, or maybe two, to carry all the groceries you just bought from the supermarket? The takeaway lunch that was packed inside a plastic container which then carried by another plastic bag? Not to mentioned the plastic spoon that came along with it? How about the straws that you use? And the plastic cap over your paper cup? All the plastic wrappers and tapes that come along with your parcel delivery?

I’m not a saint myself, and I’m not an environmentalist either. But when I sit down and think about it, it’s mind blowing how we can just live on and ignore something that’s so obvious. Perhaps this is human nature, just like how we still smoke when we know that it’s bad for our health. Mankind has evolved enough to become too ignorant and no longer giving a damn on anything other than themselves. But I certainly think that we can really do better.

The Problem

Plastic takes forever, if ever, to decompose themselves. Hence, this waste will stay on earth for almost forever. The more we create such waste, the more we need to live with it. It’s toxic, you can’t burn them. They can hardly be recycle. It’s like a time bomb waiting for it’s time to explode.

The General Reactions

“So you are trying to say that we should stop using or producing plastic altogether?”
“How am I suppose to drink without a straw?”
“Without plastic bag, how am I suppose to throw the rubbish from my home?”
“How do I carry all my groceries without a plastic bag?”
“There are bio-degradable plastic anyway, not to worry.”
“It’s not my fault, I use the plastic and dump them responsibly. If the plastic ends up in the ocean, it’s the problem of the waste disposal company.”

My View

  • It’s impossible for us to live without plastic in our daily life, somehow we will still need to rely on them on some of the items we use, at least for now. Those plastic items with long usage life will probably still stick around with us for quite some time. The key is to reduce or eliminate the short-lived plastic item that are literally disposable within minutes from our hand.
  • Like all environment driven program, there’s always the 3R aspect: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. To reduce, the first thing we need to do is to substitute the use of plastic with something else. If that’s not possible, then we reduce the use of it.
  • Bio-degradable plastic should be able to decompose faster than ordinary ones. However, when such plastics ended up in the ocean and break into smaller pieces, marine life will eat them thinking they are planktons.
  • Everyone is equally responsible for the plastic waste. If we do not have the needs or demand for disposable plastic product, they will not be produced and hence will not become a problem. Everyone plays a part, not just the government, the authority or the waste management company.

What We Can Do

  • Shops can replace plastic bag with paper bag.
  • Instead of plastic box, paper box can be used to pack takeaway food. Or taking a step further, bring your own food container for takeaway food.
  • Stop drinking with plastic straw, or bring your own reusable straw.
  • Keep reusable cutleries with you to reduce reliance on disposable plastic cutleries.
    Bring along your own shopping back with you, which can be reuse as many time as possible.
  • Corporates can look into their product packaging and reduce the use of plastic as much as possible. Don’t over-packed your items.
  • Recycle program should really be governed properly by the regulator, and this should goes hand in hand with education program that educates the younger generation on sustainability. Japan is a very good example where by law all waste and rubbish are being segregated by organic waste, plastic, recyclable material and so on. Everyone from young to old are able to follow such practice, and this is something valuable that other countries should learn and try to cultivate into their culture.

The key message is to not just sit there and leave it as it is. I believe there are some other things that we can do and change in order to at least mitigate the problem that we are facing at the moment. I’m trying to change my habit as well, slowly, step by step. I had gotten myself reusable bag, straw and cutleries. I tried to use my tumbler more often when I order a take-out drink. I tried my best to say no to plastic bag whenever possible. Yes, in many ways it does caused me some inconvenience. I’ll need to carry those reusable items with me all the time, I’ll need to trouble myself while others are not doing it anyway. But like I said earlier, it’s about culture. It’s going to be a battle of habit change, and this is the kind of battle that I’m willing to embark on. When all these “trouble” are being integrated and embedded into my daily life, it will no longer be cumbersome, and hence I would have achieved my goal in reducing my reliance on plastic, especially those disposable, short-live plastic.

I think I had been rambling too much. Just thought that I would like to note down some of the things that gone through my mind. I’m not perfect, and if I can start off and make some efforts in reducing my impact to the environment, I believe everyone else can do the same too. Our mother nature deserves better from us, and we can make a difference if we really want to. Hopefully this post managed to inspire someone to start thinking and looking deeply into this matter. Till then.

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