ZERO WASTE BLOG #2: MEDITATIONS ON PLASTIC
Monitoring our garbage disposal during this month made it pretty clear that plastic is our biggest personal trash problem. Virtually everything we throw away - as opposed to composting and recycling - falls into that category. So, obviously, the only way to have any control over this issue is to buy less plastic.
Wherever possible, we have switched over to buying products in bulk and glass. We rinse out and reuse plastic produce bags.
We bring them to the store instead of taking new bags. We recently returned an unopened box of plastic wrap to the store, and now reuse our washed plastic bags to cover leftovers or rising bread dough. We try to be thoughtful consumers, careful not to buy unneeded plastic-wrapped gadgets, clothes, and other items.
Since so many of our plastic containers and bottles are generated from purchase of toiletries, perhaps more direct communication with the companies themselves would be productive. Should we organize a write-in campaign? Could be a project for another day….
On the macro level, however, progress is being made. After a diving trip in Greece, Boyan Slat, a Dutch high school student, realized that the existing ideas for cleaning up the various giant ocean garbage patches were impractical, relying on nets to filter the plastic, which of course also scooped up too much marine life. Instead of being held back by the magnitude of the problem, he moved forward on developing his own solution - garbage-collecting booms. These are currently in trial runs in the Pacific Ocean and are showing a great deal of promise. Hurray for bold young minds!
At the Shoreline Farmers Market a few weeks ago, we came across another ingenious solution: mealworms eating styrofoam! Yes, it turns out that the same critters that you hate to see in your flour bin are voracious consumers of this non-biodegradable plastic which breaks into tiny pieces and is the bane of beach cleanups everywhere. Not only do the worms dispose of styrofoam and other forms of polystyrene, but they turn it into frass, castings that can be used to fertilize your garden. Research is ongoing to determine how this can be applied to the global plastic pollution problem:
However, all of these innovative approaches, while encouraging, are merely stopgap measures. They address mitigation of problems that we’ve created, but should not be mistaken for permanent remedies. Ultimately, the key is elimination of unsustainable polluting materials like all forms of plastic. In the meantime, reuse (e.g. 3-D printing) and transformation (e.g. mealworms) of existing stockpiles are useful responses.
Zero Waste October has brought a higher level of awareness to the Finley household and a greater understanding of the magnitude of the problem as well as how we can contribute more effectively - in our own small ways - to the solution….like inspiring our granddaughter, Liliana, to join her school’s Green Team to pick up trash on the grounds. You never know where the seeds you plant are going to sprout.
Don’t forget to vote to continue funding our beloved dump!