Plastic was made about 150 years ago in the late 1800s. But since the initial production of what was then known as plastic, plastic has transformed ten-fold over.
Plastic used to be considered for several practical household applications with a single purpose however since its inception plastic has been forged into multiple industries for different utilities. Synthetic plastic was created to imitate natural substances and replace the need to use scarce resources, which in its time was absolutely revolutionary. No more was man constrained by the limits of nature and people could reach out to new ideas in the progression of human civilization. But as time progressed, the benefits far outweighed the doubts and fears plastic could bring. But like many ‘ancient Greek tragic stories’ foretold, the initial strength became its downfall. For one, its main benefit (durable and strong) quickly became a problem as plastic waste has accumulated to over 250 million tons of waste every year, and since it’s so strong and durable… it doesn’t go away.
So why did we keep creating plastic for hundreds of years without ever really considering the consequences of its existence?
It’s easy to forget about the war in a time of peace, but theoretically, it was war that helped bloom the dis-concern for plastic manufacturing. A great expansion took place during World War II, where industrial success meant survival. So needless to say, everyone was onboard the synthetic plastic train when the war first broke out. Nylon and plexiglass are two examples of plastic born out of a time of war, and before it was widely understood, there was an increase in plastic production of over 300% in the US alone. So when the war ended, plastic kept its importance in daily lifestyles becoming THE answer for a utopian future for human civilization. But we all somehow forgot the consequences of being too greedy.
It wasn’t until the 1960s when people started noticing the issue. Plastic reputation quickly started to change perspectives from the quality-perfect resource to a flimsy and superficial substance. Chemicals in plastics were made aware, people noticed health implications of plastic and all of a sudden plastic was a major problem and definitely not the solution we thought we were looking for. However, where there is demand there will be supply, so single-use plastic still became used and manufactured despite the growing concerns. Now we have a ‘Garbage Patch’ in the middle of the ocean around 1000km² in size.
To come full circle on the history of plastic, and its physical damage on us and our planet, the trust for plastic has faded. We understand the dangers of bringing plastic into our lives, and yet now we fully depend on it. Computers, phones, cars, wires, insulation, modern medicine and transportation is fully dependant on plastic. There is simply no way around its production anymore, either way, we will always rely on the utility plastic brings. However, we can do something about what happens after we use it and what we use it for. 40% of plastic is single-use if we eradicated the need for single-use plastic we’d already be about half-way to solving our problem. The only thing left for us now is to change our mentality to what plastic is being used for and how we deal with the remnants of its durable existence.
One of the counter-arguments against plastic is that there are so many different issues going on around the world, that plastic shouldn’t be on the top. And I say, why not? We all form ways of thinking and acting through our daily habits, and to create habits one has to be conscious of it and willing to act upon it at the right time. This is a combination of knowledge + willingness. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to make changes for the better, who doesn’t mind remaining humble in a world of trouble, who can be a hero without the cape and act without an audience to witness. Then start with recycling plastic. Start here with us: follow our plastic story. And form the simple habit of cleaning your own plastic waste. Then maybe in time, you’ll find out, that once you’ve fully established this habit independently, more impressive habits will begin to form. You create your own meaning, and if you find the planet you live on to be important you can give it meaning. Maybe you should dare to take the first step and see where it could lead you.And through this first step, you can begin to change the world. It’s like the famous psychologist, Jordan Peterson said:
“There are two ways you can live life: either nothing you do gives meaning to this world or everything you do gives meaning. You can either take no responsibility for the world and drop all the value of meaning you provide to it. Or accept that EVERYTHING you do has meaning and accept the responsibility with EVERYTHING that comes with it.”