A long time ago in 1954 or thereabouts, there was a slogan on the radio which initiated much excitement about a wonderful new product. “Fantastic New Plastic”, it said.
Perhaps way back then the new plastic phenomenon was viewed as “fantastic”. Today, however, the very mass accumulation of plastics is starting to be an enormous environmental and health concern.
Plastic is everywhere. Polypropylene, ABS, nylon, polycarbonate and polystyrene are just a few of the thermoplastics (which can be re-melted) and then there are the thermoset plastics such as epoxy, polyester, polyurethane and more. One can look these up on Google for detailed scientific information.
So where is this taking us? Firstly, look around you. Look to see what is made of plastic and what is not. Your computer and mouse, radio, carpet, window frames, coffee maker, kettle, microwave oven, blinds, shutters, toilet seat, thermostat, smoke alarm, dust pan, broom, coat hanger, vacuum cleaner, camera, toothbrush, toys and garbage bin are all useful items made with plastic components and have a moderately long life before being discarded.
But then there are plastic bags, rigid and flexible plastic packaging and plastic containers. Everything is wrapped in plastic. These are “one time use plastics” and are either recycled or discarded in landfill sites. Whether recycled or not, plastic is increasingly smothering our earth. Plastics do not rot, break up, or decay.
Plastics are going to kill us! What are we doing to ourselves? Are we nuts?
Plastics are continually being produced and slowly but surely invading and contaminating the “nature of things”. There are tons of plastics floating in the sea. Apparently, the volume of one truckload of plastic is dumped into the ocean every minute. Large pieces of plastic wear down to become microplastics and are already in the food chain. With our present mindset we are knowingly polluting our earth and slowly but surely killing ourselves, the animals, and the environment.
The message is clear, “We must do something”. How and where to start is the question. Plastic is a global problem and we are all complicit in using plastics. If you buy anything nowadays it is almost always made of plastic or wrapped in plastic. No one person is to blame. Sure, we can blame the manufacturers, but then again, we buy the stuff, so we can’t proclaim our innocence. Above all, let us not shove the “solution to pollution” onto someone else.
Where to start? Firstly, why do we use a plastic garbage bag to pack our household garbage? And then, the “Kitchen Catcher Bag” is also made of plastic. Why so much plastic? Why not paper?
There is a paper bag. One is called the “Paper Yard Waste Bag” and is made of double ply paper. Stated on the bag is that it is biodegradable, compostable, and moisture resistant. It can hold as much garbage as a regular plastic garbage bag.
I have done some preliminary moisture testing on this paper bag. It loses very little durability when wet, and when it dries, it is as strong as before getting wet. Also printed on the bag is, “This bag meets all standards in municipalities where Kraft bags are accepted”. The cost of one Yard Waste paper bag is 56 cents (including tax).
In the years before humanity became addicted to plastic, household waste was placed in a metal garbage can. There were no plastics to dispose of, waste was earth friendly, biodegradable and compostable. This was less than one hundred years ago. Now we are at a crossroad; either stop manufacturing plastics or face certain annihilation.
If you are going to wrap something use paper, no more plastics. Next time buy a metal garbage can, not a plastic one. If you have any choice whatsoever don’t buy items made of plastic.
The Bruce Peninsula is a part of the designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserves network. Let’s try something anti-plastic.
Should anyone reading this have other and or better ideas, please divulge. We need everybody to solve the plastic problem.
Peter ten Cate
Lion’s Head, Ontario
Editor’s Note: The following response was received from the MNBP curbside waste contractor regarding the use of paper bags for household waste:
“These bags can go in the garbage, but are really meant to be used in yard waste programs because the bag is recycled.
These bags may take longer to collect because you can’t just grab and go. As long as it meets the weight limit, doesn’t rip when lifted and blow everywhere, it is fine for those that want to use them.”