What about the Good Old Plastic?
Rob English

Every now and then you see in the news that some brilliant schoolchild has developed a bacteria that eats plastic, and you think, Good! No more ruining the oceans with all those discarded juice bottles! No more taking my life in my hands with a scissors trying to open some hard-plastic shrink-wrapped thing I bought!

Also, no more concern that the food I’m eating sucked a bunch of plastic out of it’s plastic container, no more microplastic in my blood or in my newborn baby’s blood.

And anyway, we all knew that recycling plastic is a joke. Metals recycle. Glass and cardboard recycles, but plastic, despite those confusing numerical triangles only about five percent is recycled. There are thousands of kinds of plastic and they don’t play well together in even the most vaunted and expensive recycling processes. That picnic table made of “recycled” plastic? Maybe five percent of it was recycled, the rest made from good old, cheap NEW plastic. Sorry.

So bring on that bacteria and good riddance to plastic and hurrah for the child whose new, school science project will solve our recycling problem. It’s about time!

But wait. The cables in my computer are insulated from each other by plastic. Pretty much ALL the electrical wiring in our lives is insulated by plastic. Also the lenses of our eye glasses and a big percentage of our cars and kitchen implements are. Looking around, plastic seems to be everywhere and in everything we need. And personally, I’m not ready to go back to my grandparents’ day where everything came in heavy wood or metal, and electrical wires were coated with… what was that stuff, asbestos?

Some scientists speculate that one day a bacteria will evolve that eats plastic, maybe it will eat the thousands of types of plastic that are already in the world. If it evolves in the ocean, stopping it from eating our “helpful” plastic won’t be as easy as buying and burying the patent from the schoolboy.

Until then, we do what we can to solve the problem as citizens: buy what you can in glass rather than plastic, insist on expanded bottle bills so that ALL plastic bottles can be returned for a dime, and all the rest that we already know to do.

And by all means, keep an eye on those kids and their science projects!

Photo of plastic bottles by Magda Ehlers, photo of people on beach holding white sack by Ron Lach and photo of teacher and students science project by Tima Miroshnichenko from pexels.

Rob English is a member of People for Animal Rights, a grassroots organization in Central New York,
Contact People for Animal Rights
PO Box # 401,
Cleveland, NY 13042

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