J500 Media and the Environment

Suffocated By Plastic by Sean T.

Continent-size collections of trash rotate in the Pacific. SOURCE-James Vito

Shoes to sweatshirt to sunglasses, plastics are closer to me than I would prefer. Just as the Great Garbage Patches wreak havoc far in the Pacific Ocean I feel that plastics are trashing my food and clothes. 

 The sad part about plastic is that its built to last but usually only used once. Lunchbox sandwiches are covered in plastic wrap because a hundred feet of it costs a few dollars. Plastic is easy because there’s always more. Nevermind that it ends up in our food through leaching and bioaccumulation. Through emphasis on short-term, the process of making plastics adjusts our culture.

The concept of one-time use starts with purchases but moves  into other aspects of our lives. It can make us throw away a dying plant; it can make us give up on a relationship sooner. Our culture of fast-paced gratification is shoddily crafted with BPA-laced support beams.

Flavors abound but why is there no choice for containers? SOURCE-life.com

Not to say that this culture isn’t firmly secure. Plastics are a fundamental material in most products we consume. At grocery stores, a layer of plastic encases almost every food–even when cardboard is there! Fresh vegetables must be bagged before most grocers will ring them up. Stacks of plastic soda 2 Liters remind us of the thousands of bottles that float through stores each day.

How did this happen? When did this plastic safety net decide to wrap itself around our lives? Breaking a glass jar can be, well, jarring but do people really despise glass enough to banish it from the pantries of our society?

The origin of plastic is gasoline. Oil companies cannot refine all of the crude oil it finds. The non-refinable matter (what doesn’t end up in our tanks)is turned into toys, tabletops and whatever else the consumer needs cheap and in mass quantities. In the battle against plastics, it appears the infrastructure is against us.

The amount of plastic justifies its existence. By itself, an 8 oz. bottle of soda is a ridiculous concept. Higher price, less product, more hassle are all reasons to avoid the option. They find their way to picnics and office refrigerators because of bottle mentality. The 8 oz. bottle is justified by the 20 oz. bottle and the 20 oz. is here because of the 2 liter. Plastic bottles seem alien when compared to glass jars but a recycling bin full of plastic bottles makes sense of my bottle use.

Putting food in plastic wouldn’t make sense if our drinks weren’t bottled in it; we wouldn’t put drinks in plastic if the rest of our liquids weren’t stored that way.

This momentum builds rapidly but it can stop abruptly.  We can opt out of personal packaging, reuse glass jars and buy wholesale. When it comes to plastics “reduce” means more. We need to drastically reduce our plastic consumption before “recycle” can make any noticeable difference.

Sean T.

Whoever can guess how many bottles win them all! SOURCE-treehugger.com


4 Comments so far
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I found your post very interesting and have definitely noticed plastic seemingly everywhere. Do you think though that we, as a country, have reduced our plastic use in the past ten years or so? I see so many people bringing their reusable bags to grocery stores and the same with carrying reusable water bottles. It would be interesting to find out. Also, is there a reason why our food needs to be “double-packaged” in cardboard and plastic?

Becca N.

Comment by beccan


I have done a lot of research about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the thing that bothered me the most is that it was accidentally discovered in 1997 by Charles Moore, an oceanographer who was yacht racing across the Pacific. I just don’t understand how something so big was only discovered in the past 13 years. It doesn’t make since to me that we can see the Great Wall of China from satellites in outer space but “no one knew” about this. What do you think? -Kristina B.

Comment by kristinabev


From what i’ve read, it seems it is because it is more of a floating slime which extends from two meters below the surface to ten meters. So not all the trash is on the surface. There is more at http://science.howstuffworks.com/great-pacific-garbage-patch.htm

Sean T.

Comment by Sean Tokarz

That giant field of bottles is rather striking. I’m sort of trying to to get in the habit of reusing plastic products (one former soda bottle can be a decent water bottle for a while). I like the idea that our heavy use of plastic has been sort of a domino process, where using it for one purpose has led to use for others. There’s a certain logic to that, given how people are always trying to come up with more convenient ways of… pretty much everything. ~Ben C.

Comment by Ben

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