So here we are again it's the holiday season here in the USA and for a lot of the world. You start it off with the gluttonous feast of Thanksgiving, hit the peak of consumerism and waste for the year by Christmas and for many people the season is ended by staying up to late and getting hammered at some party to celebrate the beginning of a new year.
At least in a non Covid-19 year that is........
There is a disturbing trend out there in the world right now that that needs to be addressed.
The return of disposable plastics
If you look back over the last decade you can see a growing momentum of city, counties, and whole nations trying to limit the use of disposable plastic bags, straws cups, and other single use items. While the effectiveness of these bans can perhaps be questioned on how much plastic they save or trash they prevent. The important bit is what the plastic bans represent in the sentiments and ideas taking hold out in the world.
We as a global society were finally starting to see past the short-term gain and look at the long term picture. But then something happened, something that took our gaze from the future and yanked us roughly right back to the present.
I am of course talking about Covid-19.
The pandemic has taken us from the path of reusable bags and bring your own coffee mugs right back to single use plastic. The line we hear from everywhere it seems is that single use plastic is more sanitary and safer to use. But where is the data that backs up that theory?
It’s not there in fact the data that has been gathered about how long the virus sticks around on various materials has shown that it can live longer on plastics, stainless steel, and other hard impervious materials and it has a much shorter half-life in things like cardboard most likely fabrics.
So where is this assumption that plastic is safer and more sanitary coming from?
Fear and Propaganda.
We are all afraid of this thing and what it could do to us and our families and fear can make us lose all reason and drive irrational thinking and poor long-term choices. It is perfectly understandable that people are afraid, hell I am more than a little paranoid myself about a few things. But the fear that using items more than once makes them unclean and unsafe is simply not true. Items can be cleaned, they can be sanitized and they are as clean if not cleaner than you. So if you believe you are doing a good job with keeping yourself safe than your cloth bags and coffee tumblers are no more dangerous than you.
The propaganda is coming from an industry that was under attack from falling demand changing times as people around the world demanded products that were better for them and the planet we live on. They are trotting out the same message they have for the last half century that life is always better with plastic. In many ways they are right, the modern age would not be possible without plastic and the many advances it enabled us to make.
But plastic in its many forms is also a major polluter both during its manufacture and after it has been used. For a long time, we were willing to accept that pollution for all the benefits it gave us but lately, we have begun to wake up to the problems.
So fear and propaganda aside let's look at the idea that single use plastic bags are safer than cloth bags for use in the grocery store. First of all, people are under the mistaken impression that grocery store plastic bags are sterile and clean.
Think about that for a second….
They are manufactured in a factory, packed and shipped all over the place, and then finally unboxed and handled by many people and placed in a rack at the checkout. They then sit there and get exposed to the grocery store environment with all its people and their hands and breathing until they are finally used up.
If that sounds clean and sterile to you need to look in a dictionary.
Sterile- free from living organisms and especially pathogenic microorganisms
If you compare that to cloth reusable bags the chain of people touching them and how long they are in the grocery store is much less intimidating. Assuming you bag your own food no one but you touched your bag which cuts down on contact transmission. If you bring your own bags you also limit the time they are exposed to the environment in the store which again reduces contact time. Finally, unlike plastic bags your cloth bag can be washed, bleach or otherwise sanitized to your heart's content.
Try doing that with a plastic bag at the store....
The same principle can apply to any situation we were once again being coerced into using disposable plastic. When you really think about it is much safer for you to use stuff that is only exposed to you and your immediate environment, not something anyone can use at the store.
Thinking about the Future
I know the times are scary and stressful but we cannot let the immediate crisis take our eye off the ball that is global climate change. What can happen if we don’t start making drastic changes to the way humanity operates will make the pandemic look like a pothole on a road heading for a cliff. You shouldn't ignore the pothole but don't let it distract you from that pesky cliff coming up real fast.
So the moral of this story is don’t let fear control your actions, question all the propaganda you hear about how single use is better and use your brain to make good decisions
Hello my name is Josh Larson and I am the creator of the Green Living Library. Here on the blog you will find updates to content found in the Green Living Library as well as stories from those living the sustainable life already.