Welcoming in 2021

We all want to find some way to make it better, but how in this chaos? If you do nothing else, the single best thing we can do right now is to reduce our use of plastic.

A long time ago things that signalled progress on a monumental scale were things we could use. Railroads were just many of the things that we used to make life better. Towns lived or died by their paths and they would come to bring nearly every machine and good that laid the groundwork for modern America. As influential and big as those railroads seemed, an even bigger revolutionary invention came in the 50s.

Plastic revolutionized how we live. From eyeglasses to automobiles, it’s allowed us to do things we never thought we could. Most of our clothes are plastic (Polypropylene) our food is kept safe in it (Polyethylene) and nearly everything we touch has a good portion of the stuff in it. It’s strength and flexibility, the ability to be opaque or transparent, and it’s cheap manufacturing cost rocketed plastic into a permanent place in our world.

As miraculous as it first seemed, however, one of its key qualities has also become a serious threat- It stays around forever. Even if plastic is recycled, it can only be used a certain number of times. Each cycle makes the polymer chains shorter and shorter, and its strength is lessened, until is just can’t be used for anything anymore. Even though those polymers have been broken up and are shorter, they are far from inert.

Plastic is one of those things that becomes more difficult to deal with once it breaks down. Our water treatment plants and waste facilities can’t really handle it. Oh sure the hard stuff gets recycled, but the soft, pliable stuff? It just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. The smaller the piece, the more it can leach its chemical components into the environment. I mean- it’s what you would expect, right? Things breaking down to become other things? Except plastic doesn’t feed anything else, nourish anything else, or become rock like anything else. It just sits there taking up space and leaching out part of its chemical makeup. And those chemicals just happen to be endocrine disruptors- the kind of thing that alters the expression of male and female in living organisms. BPA is the well known one, but there are many others as well. Enough that some species are becoming sterile, and the males are losing fertility, our species, homo sapiens, included.

That biodegradable poop bag you bought? Yep. It’ll be in tiny pieces, but it won’t be gone.

This year has been tumultuous for many reasons- not a single person was left untouched. Between political factions, the wildfires, and a pandemic, many saw the pattern of life changed. We all want to find some way to make it better, but how in this chaos? If you do nothing else, the single best thing we can do right now is to reduce our use of plastic.

Reducing the amount of plastic we consume is much easier than you think. and it has a lot of benefits!

1. It saves space. were we to only recycle metal, paper and glass, and replace plastic with compostable items, we would cut our single stream to half or more of what we have now, if what I see in the truck is a representation of the whole county. The market for plastic has gone stagnant. It’s rare to see a for profit recycling plant anymore, as it’s operating at a loss as the price for plastic has fallen to 50% of the value it had 10 years ago. The big culprit? Contamination- mostly in the form of plastic bags and films or food. The Chinese were our biggest market for used plastic, and they are rejecting our plastic. it simply has too much bad stuff in it. The market standard for China and other nations is a generous 5% of the total weight. But our average at the household level is more like 20%. So it goes to the landfill, and taxpayers see no financial offset.
2. It’s better for our health. The men in this generation has half the sperm count as their father did at the same age. Certain key physiological measurements are becoming more like what’s expected in female counterparts. And it’s been tracked down to the chemicals in plastic.
3. It saves species. Whether you are a hunter or a tree hugger, this is important. You can’t fish or hunt a species that is declining because it went sterile. Your can’t hug a tree that needed niche species like insects or amphibians to complete the reproductive cycle. You can’t bring back a cow that ate a plastic bag nor it’s bison counterpart. Aquatic species and insects are taking the brunt of this, but bioaccumulation will bring it back to us, and besides, we wear everyday and produce microparticles when we wash our clothes. Right now microparticles like the stuff that gets washed away in your washing machines are the single biggest contributors to plastic pollution. Something like 80%! SO while that raft of plastic is scary, the true plastic pollution scenario is 5 times the size.
4. It saves money. From a tax standpoint, the cost of bringing a ton of recycling has skyrocketed in the last 5 years. It used to cost $5 for Gilpin County to bring a ton of singlestream to be processed in Denver. It now costs $75. Instead of getting a little cash back to offset machinery, companies are losing money on recycling. Because we aren’t recycling properly.

Easy substitutions for everyday plastic things:

Toothbrushes, feminine care, and personal care items- this industry has BOOMED since my youngest turned 4. There are several options in everything from bandages to soda. For a good start though:
1. eat in or pack your lunch. You would just cringe if you saw all the plastic packages that restaurants use to make “from scratch” meals.
2. find another way to pack lunch and use compostable or reusable packaging. We really like the glass snap lock type thing because we are always spilling something over or knocking it down. If you can’t find glass, don’t worry. There are a lot of other things out there. Use wax papaer bags instead of plasti for sandwiches and chips.
3. Buy yourself a bento style box. or a tiffin. These traditional lunch boxes from Japan and India offer a great way to have everything in its own little compartment, arranged in a box that protects the whole thing, sans plastic.
4. Using wax paper is just the beginning. Ditch your straw or buy a metal one.
5. Look for compostable disposables. They’re getting alot more common, and composting is good for unlimited quantities until further notice, so it doesn’t cot you anything
6. Use your dehydrator and mason jars.
7. For soda freaks like me, I love love love the SodaStream. You can even buy a version that doesn’t have plastic bottles, but you have to go to their website.

Once we catch up I’ll start up the weekend report, giving you my honest and silly review of different product and how I can Ned-Wreck it into something decent. Life is already overwhelming, let me help you. If I haven’t covered something then feel free to email me.