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Plastic in Perspective


Take a little hypothetical journey with me for a minute.

You’re roaming the aisles of your local grocery store, with a mixture of odd cravings – apple juice, hashbrowns and sorbet – of the strawberry variety. Only thing on your mind is getting home and indulging in your peculiar array of snacks. You pay the cashier, grab your plastic bag and head out.

It’s hard to wrap our minds around the impact of casually packing our groceries in a plastic bag. It’s just one plastic bag, it’s not going to make a HUGE difference. It’s also hard to wrap our minds around ‘forever’; around a thousand years I should say. We are here on this earth for 100, if we’re lucky. A plastic bag? It’ll stick around ten times your lifetime. 1000 years. And even then, it never really goes away, just eventually breaks down into tiny little pieces.

Researchers‘fear’ plastic bags may never fully decompose; they aren’t even sure because when plastic bags came out in the 60s, every single one still exists in some form or another; making it difficult to predict their lifespan.

And it’s not just one bag… How many bags do you think you’ve used in your lifetime so far? Let’s say you are 25 years old, and you’ve used 2 plastic bags a day on average. That’s 18 250 plastic bags so far – for one person. It’s also not just bags; its straws, its cups, its water bottles, its your ziplock lunches, its your grocery store packaging… Can you imagine if you had a pile of ALL the disposable plastics you’ve ever used – how many rooms in your house would it fill? How many houses would it fill?

Let’s look into why so many plastics cannot fully decompose. ‘The most common type of plastic shopping bag, bottle and container is made of polyethylene, a petroleum-derived polymer that microorganisms don’t recognize as food and as such cannot technically biodegrade. Even though polyethylene can’t biodegrade, it does break down when subject to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, a process known as photodegradation. (Unfortunately most plastics end up in landfills, with layers upon layers of other waste, never seeing a hint of sunlight). ‘When exposed to sunshine, polyethylene’s polymer chains become brittle and crack, eventually turning what was a plastic bag into microscopic synthetic granules. Scientists aren’t sure whether these granules ever decompose fully, and fear that their buildup in marine and terrestrial environments- and in the stomachs of wildlife – portend a bleak future compromised by plastic particles infiltrating every step in the food chain’. Which leads me to a whole other potential blog post… ‘Plastics as part of our diet’. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]