I just learned about this wonderful initiative from a blogger in Australia: Plastic Free July! You can learn how to participate and sign up on the link above. If you’re a part of an organisation or a school it would be great to sign up as a group, too. Since I’m at a boarding school in rural India that’s a bit harder for me to do, so I’m going to adapt my approach a bit. Instead of avoiding purchasing one-use plastic and such, I’m going to keep a diary of all the plastic I come into contact with each day and try to think of each object’s history, its story.
I’m all prepared for this as I’m in the middle of reading Plastic: A Toxic Love Story by Susan Freinkel. Reading through this book is helping me have a much more complex understand of this substance. I had no idea that the rush to create from a man-made, malleable material came from a desire to stop the murder of elephants in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) whose tusks were being used to manufacture things like billiard balls, piano keys, and combs for one’s hair. There seems to have been an ecological impetus to shifting from natural resources.
Still, the craze with which this plastic frenzy hit the marketplace in the U.S., and eventually around the world, completely ignored one of the most important aspects of human and environmental health: the precautionary principle. Essentially this means that one should not introduce a new substance into the world at large until substantive studies have been done to determine the nature of the item and its toxicity levels.
And there is still so much we don’t know about the long-term effects of plastic on the planet or on us. What we do know is:
♼ plastic cannot decompose
♼ plastic pollutes the air with carcinogenic toxins when burned
♼ plastic pollutes the groundwater and soil when buried
♼ plastic leaches into your food and drinks
♼ there is no safe exposure level to plastic
♼ plastic mimics oestrogen which causes problems from fertility to cancer
All this is to say there are important reasons to go plastic free not only this July but for the rest of your life. While I am fortunately sheltered from the perils of plastic and shopping here at school, I am going to use the time to explore plastic in my life.
Speaking of which, below is a photograph of an upcycled plastic bottle turned chandelier that one of my students made for me and it’s now hanging above my desk.