For years I’ve tried to minimize my use of fossil fuels, from which plastic is made, but which are consumed much more abundantly in gasoline and heating fuel and electricity. I always thought plastics were a tiny percentage of the problem and not something I needed to worry about.
But at the summit against oil and gas infrastructure last November in Pittsburgh, for the first time I heard people talking about fighting “cracker plants,” explained here in a report from State Impact Pennsylvania, a joint project of NPR stations in the state: “In June 2016, Shell Chemical Appalachia announced it plans to build a massive, multi-billion dollar petrochemical plant (known as an ethane cracker) in Potter Township, Beaver County, about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. ‘Cracker’ is industry lingo for a plant that takes oil and gas and breaks it into smaller molecules, to create ethylene, which is used in plastics manufacturing.” It would create toxic air pollution and lead to negative health outcomes for at least some residents.
But plastics manufacturing isn’t a “tiny” part of the problem. According to an article in The Guardian, plastic production is planned to increase by 40% in the next decade. “The global plastic binge, which is already causing widespread damage to oceans, habitats and food chains, is set to increase dramatically over the next 10 years after multibillion dollar investments in a new generation of plastics plants in the U.S.”
So I decided to do a “plastics cleanse.” But it’s not that easy. I use a straw to drink my coffee, and I plan to get a set of bamboo straws, but first I thought I’d use up the dozens of plastic straws I’ve accumulated over the years. My daughter uses a lunch bag that is an alternative to plastic bags, and I can get one, but first I may as well use up the hundreds of plastic bags of all sizes I have in the house. I have three fleece tops, and nothing could be cozier in cold weather, and since I already have them I might as well keep wearing them, though if they ever wear out (they show no sign of doing so) I could replace them with flannel or wool. There’s also a lot of plastic in all my electronic devices, and I’m not sure how I’d replace them when they wear out or get broken.
Since the conference, I’m more aware of who pays the price for my plastic conveniences, and I hope that will help me minimize its use.
P.S. The photo above has nothing to do with this topic; it’s just showing how I like to decompress after dealing with all these daunting problems. Oh, wait! My skis are partially made of plastic, too.