QUEST!ON
Published in

QUEST!ON

Are plastics the actual threat to the environment?

Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

For the past few years, increasing concern about the harmfulness of plastics to our environment seems to emerge in the media. Especially the single-use plastics are for many environmentalists the enemy no. 1.

What you can’t hear in the media, however, is that the single-use plastics are replaced with single-use wooden disposables. In other words, the campaign against plastics contributes to forest destruction and paper price increase. So much to the benefits of this idiotic, pseudo-redeeming campaign.

The reality is plastics are very useful materials that make our every-day life much easier. On the contrary, the right management of plastics may alleviate the burden we place upon the environment.

Our problem is not the (single-use) plastics.

Our problem is that we don’t throw the used piece of plastic into the proper bin. Then the problem is that there isn’t enough of these bins around and recycling is not mandatory for each household. Then the problem is that we throw into the bins stuff that doesn’t belong there. Then the problem is that the bags of plastics end up with everything else thrown out. Then the problem is that the recycling infrastructure is weak. Then the problem is that the people invest in the idiotic start-ups creating debts rather than in waste management. And so on.

What is really going on in the world now with regards to plastics is blaming some kind of material for environmental damage. But the material is innocent. We, the people who create and operate with that material, are to blame. So if we really want to protect the environment, we have to disclose the real culprit.

The global environmental threat is not the plastics, but it is the reckless human behavior based on an ideology that we call capitalism.

Capitalism is an ideology that is interested in profit and growth at all (besides financial, that is) costs. That means among other things no matter the costs of the environment. From the perspective of capitalism, it is more advantageous to preserve reckless consumerism than, let’s say, a forest. Because the forest itself doesn’t bring money, whereas reckless consumerism does.

Next, capitalism avoids investing in less profitable activities, which are generally the ones of social responsibility (waste management, for example). In other words, real capitalism always supports a profitable business venture with dubious social value (e.g. a debt service) rather than a less profitable service that is beneficial to the environment (e.g. waste management).

Let’s have a hypocritical example of reckless consumerism. Why does a start-up-employed hipster, who shares #environment posts on Instagram and who likes to participate in any kind of demonstration against Trump, orders food enwrapped in the single-use plastic package across the whole city via a dubious delivery service that creates emissions, instead of moving his ass physically to a restaurant at the corner where they don’t use the single-use cutlery?

By and large, to care about the environment demands complex and uncomfortable changes for a society under the rule of capitalism. For example, denying hipsters the comfort of overpriced food delivered specially to them across the whole city in an empty car for four people. To blame plastics for the idiotic behavior of humans is just alibism and an effort to preserve the status quo. And the status quo is a reckless consumer behavior that emphasizes individual comfort over societal health.

In other words, even if we eliminated plastics from circulation, reckless consumer behavior would survive. Therefore no change would be made for the environment.

If the society really wants to protect the environment, we will recognize such effort not from the pleasing talks on the TV and hashtags on Instagram, but from the every-day behavior of each individual in the society. And if we are brave enough to take a look around us, let’s answer honestly the following question: How much does the desire of the society to protect the environment prevail over the desire for comfort of its individual members?

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