Addicted made the plastic problem

Posted: 26/02/2012 in ONE planet

I was watching the movie “Addicted to Plastic”, and a couple of things in it made me angry. First of all there is the serious problem damaging our environment but then secondly this 1% face from the American Chemist Council presented the problem as all ours:-

It is not our problem, we are on the receiving end of the problem. If the problem is ours then we can we solve it, quite simply we cannot – see problem below. The problem is not ours, it is the 1% problem and they are too addicted to their profits to listen to their human nature.

Early on in the film it explains why plastics – originally an oil derivative – is so liked by manufacturers, because it is so flexible. But that flexibility is not true. What is true is that it is flexible on production lines. All of the items that are made from plastics and sold are made on production lines. Now that is significant in understanding how to solve the problem, to recycle the plastic we need a production line. And the key word in a production line is the word mass, there has to be large amounts for the problem to be solved by the 1% because they only seek profit. And because they are in control there is no-one to make them accountable so they don’t solve the problem of their creating.

What made me so angry about this 1% face is that he pointed the blame at people. How are people to blame? OK some people are careless with rubbish, this is aesthetically not pleasing but that is not the problem. The problem is that the plastic needs to be recycled, and the only way that can be done is on a production line. Typically an item is made at a factory. The oil derivative (whatever) is delivered to the factory where the product is made, and then the item is distributed to the local shops or chain stores where people buy it. Then the item becomes damaged and people throw it away. What then happens?

Where I live, with plastic bottles there is a good solution. Someone collects the plastic bottles and these bottles are taken to a production line where they are made into fleece jackets. My understanding is that the people who collect the bottles get a minimal amount of money but environmentally this is sound. What then happens when the fleece jacket is finished with? It is a good solution for plastic bottles. But it works because there is a profit in it.

I am very fortunate to be able to spend time by the beach, and I am writing this blog by the sea on a beautiful quiet beach. Now what happens to the polystyrene packing that this computer came in? Have a look at these photos:-

Trash on the beach

Now these beaches are deserted, and two of them can only be accessed by clambering over sharp rocks or swimming to them. But the sea has planty of access and returns to the land some of what man has thrown into it – as you can see. Cynics will immediately say “stop bleeting and go and clean the beach youself”. I did to begin with and that is how the pile in this picture grew. I have connections with the local school, and I am sure I could get some of them to have beach clean-up day, but then what? The refuse is collected, the kids feel good, but what happens to the refuse? In a landfill or taken out to sea with the rest of the plastic discussed in the film. The beaches may become prettier but the problem is not solved – just moved somewhere else.

The problem is local but the cause is mass production – global. I could clean this beach but I would need transport to take the polystyrene somewhere to be processed. Whilst the polystyrene is clearly an eyesore and potentially damaging to the environment there is not sufficient of the stuff to warrant any kind of production line. Even if I collected it what would I do with it that was environmentally sound?

I’m going to have a dig at Bill Gates. He is one of the 1%’s manipulative foundation philanthropists – I particularly don’t like the way he has been manipulative in education (see Matriellez). But what has he done to be accountable for all the computer packing cases? I look at the polystyrene and it says “used to pack a computer with Windows in it to give Bill Gates some of his millions”. Of course it doesn’t say this because these packing case that are damaging the environment have no source of origin. If you or I damaged the environment in this way we would be held accountable, the 1% isn’t.

Tell me what I could do. In all honesty there are bottles on the beach I could move, it would improve the situation a bit. But the real solution is global and lies with the 1%. They need to accept the principle of accountability for the plastics they are creating, and determine a policy of recycling that makes maximum use of all this material that is environmentally damaging. As part of this accountability process they could invest in R&D that provides a local solution. Here, a guy converts styrofoam to surfboards, but again there is not sufficient styrofoam locally to make this profitable. The nearest town to the above beach is 30km away. Here is a machine that makes petrol from plastic. Bill Gates invest your money in local solutions to the environmental problems Microsoft helps create and should be accountable for – not in development that indirectly increases the use of computers in education or elsewhere. Pay fully for your profits.

At the end of the movie, the narrator gave a good summary:-

The technology exists to create biodegradable plastic, but the profit doesn’t. OK but more importantly the 1% are not accountable for the plastic they create, and the 99% cannot build the production lines to get rid of the problem. Is this reason enough to give up? In some ways. How can I let myself get stressed about a problem that in the current climate has no solution? OK, but at the same time I can make some personal efforts. I am willing to make such efforts, NGO’s can you help?

At the same time I was considering this problem, I have looked into solar power. Living in Thailand electricity is relatively cheap – compared to England. I was given a quote for solar power in my small home, and I would break even after 30 years. Yet this New Scientist article suggests that in India you could break even after 7 years. At the same time in Cambodia solar panels can be bought for $2000 – found somewhere on this site. If Thailand had such I would be in the process of installing.

But Thailand has a solution. The King. The King has already shown positive inducements to ecological good sense through his sufficiency economics, couldn’t he make similar inducements for solar energy? Could he not promote a Thai company to develop home solar systems and install them? If the products were made in Thailand, wouldn’t they be cheaper? And if the King promoted them there would be a demand. Hope fully someone connected to his office will read this, and give the idea some consideration.


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