Hey girl, Here's why you should care about plastic.
For too long, I was publicly shamed for my values. I’ve been mocked for my eco-warriorism, for going vegetarian, for sorting, and re-sorting the trash of roommates, break-rooms, random house parties, etc. But thank Bey, it seems that the tables have turned.
Nowadays, you wouldn’t want to be caught acting like a plasdick (an unwoke, careless jerk about plastic) by not bringing your own shopping bag to the market or asking for a straw with your drink, and you should know why thousands of people are gathering on the streets of the world demanding action on climate change.
But hey, I get it. If you didn’t jump on the environmental bandwagon early on, it can feel intimidating to hold your own at a dinner party. And the further you delve into the great expansive details of the plastic industry, and how it relates to climate change, the more disheartening it may seem. But never fear! I’ve got you - or rather Ryan Gosling does.
Because the 5 things you should know about the anti-plastic movement have more to do with him (and his movies) than you may think. So grab your (The) notebook and take some notes.
1. Businesses Are Coming Up (The Big) Short
Just like in The Big Short, big businesses have more to do with the proliferation of plastic than we know. When you look around in your daily life, it seems near impossible to avoid plastic. Our fresh produce is pre-peeled and wrapped in plastic wrap, disregarding the efficiency of their natural skins to protect it. Drinks on airplanes come from single-use plastic cups that are tossed out after the one gulp.
While we all have our parts to play in choosing to say no to plastic more regularly, sometimes it's hard to avoid. I mean, how do you choose between skipping the Bloody Mary or just accepting the cup on the plane?
The fact is these big plasdick businesses are determined to shove their plastic in every corner of our daily lives. And they’ve done an incredible job. In 2020, the Global Plastics Market will be worth over $654 Billion with a projected increase in production of 40 percent over the next decade. (!!!!!)
Slowly, we’ve seen some progress. Companies like Adidas, Patagonia, Lush, and more that are featured regularly on my Instagram (ahem) have taken steps to change their processes to reduce their environmental impact and reduce the use of single-use plastics.
But for every Patagonia, there are scores of companies purely selling plastic packaging (looking at you bottled water companies and this plasdick). Yet while we work towards the material revolution we severely need, there is plenty we can do.
2. We’re Crazy, Stupid, (Love ) to ignore this
It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle that just works, like the womanizing ways of suave Jacob Palmer. Flitting through life without a care of our plastic use has become as routine as picking up a girl in a bar. Not until something or someone comes into our lives to give us a wake-up call.
Now, unfortunately, it’s no Emma Stone this time but the UN has delivered up some truth bombs that we cannot ignore.
If you’ve been under a rock since October 2018, the UN released a report telling us in no uncertain terms that we have 12 years (now only 11) to keep the world from warming a further 1.5°C OR ELSE. We’re talking famine, climate refugee crises, dead coral and sea life, uncontrollable weather and more if we don’t take action. Not to mention last week’s report that says 1 million species face extinction because of the human-caused degradation of the global environment. Oy vey.
I don’t mean to stress you out with the doom and gloom but it’s clear: we need to be making some big changes and sorting out the plastic industry will be a large step forward.
See, plastics are made from non-renewable fossil fuels. The sheer process of extracting these fuels include fracking, drilling and mining that all pump out more carbon emissions by the tons. Then, the plastics need to be molded into whatever dumb thing they need to be and transported to wherever they’re going, all equaling more emissions. Given that we need to be cutting greenhouse gas emissions by a whopping 45% percent, it seems only logical that we should start with the plastic industry.
You still with me, girl?
3. Recycling is as Real as Lars and the Real Girl
You might be thinking, but hey there, I recycle. And let me start off by saying, yes that’s great! Don’t stop. But I’m sorry I’m going to have to break through your illusion that the doll is really your girlfriend or that recycling is the ultimate solution. Because they both aren’t.
Besides the carbon-emitting process of transporting, cleaning, and refining said recyclables, it’s not actually that effective. Only 9% of plastic put into the proper bins are actually recycled. (NINE!) If you were actually diligent enough to clean and sort properly, that 9% is usually made into something of lesser value and non-recyclable which just simply delays the problem.
Most importantly, China and the other top 5 countries who bought over half of the world’s recyclables since forever stopped in 2018 so most plastics are now ending up in landfills, incinerators or being burnt (more carbon emissions) because we have no other significant buyers to fill their shoes.
So if you’re living in one of the lucky cities that still picks up your recycling, be sure you’re doing it right:
Sort that shit. Even Martha Stewart even has a guide to recycling, by state for your viewing pleasure. Take it next level by understanding the sexy world of plastic identification codes and you’ll realize just how little gets recycled.
Clean that shit. The reason China isn’t taking our garbage anymore is because we were sending contaminated goods. You may think tossing the Starbucks cup in the blue bin was the right thing, but alas aspirational recycler, it wasn’t working.
4. It’ll take more than good intentions to keep these oceans blue (valentine).
Yep, Blue Valentine could be seen as depressing as the thought of our planet becoming unrecognizable or unlivable. But I’m hoping we can all see the positive here: how passionate RG’s character Dean is about his family. I hope that just an ounce of that passion can reside in ourselves to take action now.
The two things to remember in reducing your plastic consumption are:
REFUSE, reduce, reuse, recycle. We might all be familiar with the three original R’s but it’s time to firmly stick #refuse at the top of our list. Just Say No to disposable, single-use plastic. Bring your own water bottle, coffee mug, cutlery and shopping bag whenever you head out. Proactively tell the waiter to “hold the straw” like you would the gluttonous croutons if you had Celiac’s or a bikini photo shoot the next day.
Vote with your dollar. Choose glass and aluminium packaging over plastic each purchase. Both materials have a lower carbon footprint and can be recycled again and again. Even better, bring your own containers to bulk food stores shop where ever zero-waste goods are sold.
5. Getting to La La Land won’t be that easy, but we should give it a crack
I’m not going to lie, I couldn’t make it through La La Land. (GASP!) I don’t actually know the whole story but I DO if one singular white guy can save jazz, we all can sure try to save the environment.
We just need to be more realistic about the impact our choices and behaviors have. Maybe swap your next Housewives marathon for a documentary like A Plastic Ocean. See how you can start implementing a greener working environment. Or drop some knowledge on feedback cards (or napkins) for restaurants and hotels.
Our work is yet to be done and making sure we are consciously aware of the problem surrounding us and the ways we can help will be critical. Like Ryan (probably) says, “There is no away, girl.”
Jessica has been a recycling-nag, nay, motivational recycling coach since 2003 when she started her lifelong side hustle as a professional sorter of other people’s trash. This post is dedicated to her hippy mama who dressed her in cloth diapers and scorned her for waste since the 80’s.
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero-waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly” - Anne-Marie Bonneau.