“People had more than they needed. We had no idea what was precious and what wasn’t. We threw away things people kill each other for now.” – Denzel Washington in The Book of Eli
I saw a bumper sticker this morning that read “Live simply so others can simply live.” I know that each and every one of us would have our own definition of what living simply looks like. Some make a conscious effort to live simply, others because it is the only way they can afford to live, and others, well others just plain old don’t give a shit. There are those of us whose view is the earth and its resources serve us rather than the other way around. This may be a short-sighted view of today and the future but each of us, knowingly and unknowingly, contribute to that view by our actions.
Plastic Free July is an effort raise awareness of the problems with single-use disposable plastic, something I would suspect most of us encounter everyday. From plastic grocery bags to plastic straws, plastic fills our life and our oceans and our landfills. It makes our life convenient, easy, and sadly simple, we use it and simply throw it away without any thought to the effects our one plastic water bottle is having on the world.
Americans, 332 million of us, used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year. Let that number sink in for a minute, 50 billion. However, we only recycled 23 percent of them which means almost 39 billion water bottles – more than $1 billion worth of plastic is wasted each year. Where do those 39 billion water bottles end up? In our landfills, oceans and rivers and on the side of our roads.
Our local community college is built on top of the old city landfill which was closed and “capped off” which means dirt and grass seed were thrown on top of it, in the 1940’s and early 1950’s. For the years the Sanitation Director would make the rounds of the civic clubs to talk about trash and litter with a new sample of “material” he had dug-up on the grounds of the college. Spread out in front of the podium would be newspapers from the 1920’s and 30’s, metal cans, and bottles that were 80 and 70 years old. His point was always the same, this “stuff” buried under a thin layer of dirt wasn’t going anywhere. Two thousand years from now that old R.C. Cola glass bottle buried in the landfill in 1930 would still be with us.
“We threw away things people kill each other for now.” The movie The Book of Eli is primarily about the post-apocalyptic world but it is also the story of our excesses. It would be damn near impossible for each of us not to use single-use disposable plastic everyday. We use it without thinking, without even noticing. This month during Plastic Free July be aware of your buying and use habits. We all need to move more towards reusable and recyclable rather than disposable. Plastic straws and cup lids don’t magically disappear when we discard them, they are still with us somewhere and will continue to be with future generations many, many years to come.
“I hate plastic bottles. Just think about it before you buy one. We pay more for a gallon of water than we do for a gallon of gas. I think people will realize that water quality standards in most municipalities are as good or better for the stuff coming out of the tap than bottled water companies. You’ll save money and save the environment, too.” – Philippe Cousteau, Jr.