Is plastic waste the world’s most pressing problem? Probably not.
It’s true that a whopping 6.3 billion tons of plastic trash has been generated since the 1950s, and almost all of it is still around: in landfills, in the ocean, along the road. Only a small amount, about 9%, has ever been recycled.
However, the tagline of this Economist article makes a valid point: “So far, [plastic pollution] seems less bad than other kinds of pollution (about which less fuss is made).”
Consider that the total environmental cost of plastic comes to about $139 billion a year, while the social and environmental costs of say, fertilizer run-off, amounts to an astounding $200-800 billion dollars a year. In another direct comparison, air pollution kills an estimated 7 million people a year while plastic pollution is directly linked to 0 deaths (of course this neglects wildlife affected by plastic).
So why write a blog about trash? Aren’t there more pressing issues? Well, when you mind your trash, you might solve other environmental issues too.
Leave it as you found it. We seem to expound this belief only when we are outside camping or hiking. Why doesn’t this mantra apply to our everyday lives?
Plastics have long been considered an eyesore. We all disapprove of the trash littering the roadside, the plastic bottles floating down the river, and the plastic sacks wrapped around the necks of species oblivious to its origin. But we seem eager to use as much easy access plastic as possible.
We prefer one and done everything: plastic utensils, k-cups, water bottles. What if we were to actually value everything we used? Surely making coffee in a french press tastes better than brewing a cup from a small plastic choking hazard. We sacrifice quality to save time. We have created a throwaway culture in order to have it all.
Trash is a reflection of our soul. Our desire for more, not better. So maybe if we produce less waste, we can create more intrinsic value in our lives. Perhaps we will opt for experiences over things, or maybe we will opt for a homemade meal over takeout. We can be free of the things we would rather throw away, and instead, we can value the things that truly enrich us.
When we buy less stuff, we also reduce our carbon footprint. So maybe we can reduce the number of deaths from air pollution and mitigate the outrageous external costs of fertilizer runoff by trashing less.
I hope this blog can help you do just that!