Monday, December 2, 2019

A Miracle becomes a Nightmare

     When I was growing up our black dial three-party-line telephone was the major thing I remember that was molded of plastic. It was a substance called Bakelite, a thermosetting phenol formaldehyde resin invented by Leo Bakeland. Lots of other uses caught on. Buttons, billiard balls, lamps, chess sets, poker chips. Highly flammable celluloid had also been around for some years, used to make things from jewelry to handles for straight razors to thousands of miles of movie film.

     It was early days in the making of our Plastic Planet.

     In my lifetime I’ve seen these miraculous synthetic materials come to be used in every aspect of our lives—even to enhance and extend our lives with plastic contact lenses and lens implants and safety glasses and hard hats and helmets and pacemakers and medicinal syringes and IV bags and implantable artificial joints and prosthetics and medical equipment. Thousands of beneficial products.

     But there is an ever-looming and much larger dark side to our Plastic Planet. In 2020 people around the Earth will buy a million plastic beverage bottles a minute, buy 24 billion plastic-containing pairs of footwear, discard a billion plastic toothbrushes and three trillion plastic cigarette filters and miles of plastic food wrap and millions of other plastic objects after only brief one-time use. Plastic items are easy to throw away—the roadsides everywhere are evidence of that—but the problem is they don’t go away. Tedious, complicated, and expensive recycling is only making an insignificant dent in the problem.

     It’s fast becoming a nightmare, choking our waterways and oceans and landfills, killing fish, bits of it even lodging in our bodies. Creating an ugly landscape of lingering litter everywhere.

     There are things we all could be doing to at least reduce the problem. Carry reusable beverage bottles and cutlery, buy degradable bamboo toothbrushes, donate rather than discard old shoes, store leftovers in glass containers, request paper grocery bags, carry fabric shopping bags, don’t use plastic straws, buy fresh foods not wrapped in plastic. Don’t litter; recycle instead.

     For the sake of our only planet—our only home—we need to do these things and more and teach our kids as well.


A reminder: My new novel Killing Ground is available in print or e-book on Amazon. There's an easy buy link on  Check it out. Maybe a Christmas gift for a reader you know?

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