During class today, I learned about a new concept of recycling, down-cycling. Down-cycling is useful in that it allows the creation of a recycled product even after the plastic’s recycling cycle of once or twice to their original form. It basically extends the life cycle of plastic, preventing it from going into landfill. However, as great as it sounds, it does not solve the main problem. Eventually after its long life cycle (being recycled twice, and down-cycled), the toxic substances from plastic materials will be released into the environment.
Basically what I am saying in short is; “Although we claim that plastic can be ‘reused, reduced, and recycled’ and everything will be great if we follow these 3 R’s, in the end, plastic comes back to harm us and our environment.”
Learning about plastic today, I am not sure what to envision anymore.
I have been taught since elementary school that if everyone took their time and effort to use less plastic, recycle and reuse what I used, the world would change. However, despite many people around the world being educated about the negative impacts of plastic, I see many individuals and businesses not hesitating when using plastic. Working at a cafe, I often see people not hesitating to pay the extra 50 cents when being charged for a plastic cup. I see businesses use single-use plastic to wrap their food. If everyone is educated about plastic, know about the consequences, such as the endocrine disruptors in plastic, have the solutions in mind to solve the problem, why is it still a problem? When will we really be plastic-free?
I, as an individual, will continue to reuse, reduce, and recycle but what else is there as a whole that we can do to solve the problem that we have been working on for a long time?
Hi Eunee, I love your reflection on what schools have taught us about recycling and our impact as individual actors. It makes me think about how, even if large masses of people try to do the right thing perfectly, ultimately it will only do so much if the large companies and corporations of the world continue to control the ways we consume. It also makes me think about how the plastic documentary highlighted the flaws and gaps within current recycling programs. Humans are capable of change, and they are motivated, but the current systems we have are not ready to help us achieve the change we want. We need to change systems so that we can have effective recycling programs. We need to change systems so that corporations are forced to reduce their plastic production and use. I find it really interesting that schools teach so much about individual action, like recycling. I think we need to start teaching youth about the flaws within the systems and how we need to change those as well.
I agree with your post, I think for long term sustainability it is important to incorporate some strict laws or policies regarding plastic use.
Hi Eunee! I agree with you that the plastic recycling problem presented in class was very disappointing. However, I think that using as many bio-alternatives like beeswax, etc, to reduce single use plastic waste is a great first step, and one that could be scaled to make a major difference.
Hi Eunee Cho, to answer the question you proposed for a larger scale intervention, I think that if there were a very uniform set of plastics that were actually collected by passing strong laws requiring extended producer responsibility, the sustainability of this system would be greatly increased and foster a more circular economy. I concur with your values and vision!
Thank you for your post! You touch on the discouraging discoveries so many of us make. We think we are contributing to a solution, but later we find out our actions have no impact, or may even make the problem worse. The lady who spent years collecting plastics from locals for TerraCycle, only for them to be burned in Bulgaria, stands out as one example. Even if individuals or companies are disincentivized from using single-use plastics, we still see many (including ourselves) continue to use them.
Ultimately, the question becomes...is there any point to doing any of this?
Perhaps injustice can help rekindle our motivation.
When I see images like the one above, I am reminded of the consequences of pollution. Do we want to live in a world where a child from Indonesia must bear the costs of plastic pollution from wealthier nations? No.
So even if we don't have a clear answer on how to address plastic pollution right now, we must keep trying to find one.