The Problem With Plastic (And our approach to tackling the ‘ Three R’s ’)

We all know that plastic is bad for the environment, but when I heard the statistic that producing aplastic water bottle requires as much as 2,000 times the energy cost of producing tap water, it really sunk in. That is a massive carbon footprint to be leaving out of, what, laziness? One of the easiest things you can do for yourself and the environment is just buy a reusable water bottle, which many do. There are now many water fountains with built in water dispensers for the purpose of filling up your reusable jug. But, what about when you drink that cup of coffee in the morning?

I have always been a adamant reusable water bottle carrier, but for some reason, until it was recently pointed out to me, I didn’t even consider how my paper cafe cup or plastic Dunkin’s iced coffee cup were no different. I have a mug at home that I take my tea out in… why don’t I bring it with me everywhere like I do my CamelBack?

I think it comes down to routine and what we’ve been told is sustainable. Its been drilled into consumers heads to ‘use reusable water bottles!!’, but you see fewer sleepy-eyed consumers waiting in the 7am coffee line with reusable mugs. Water is a necessity, so it makes sense to drink it often and having a reusable container for it might make more modern-day-consumer-psychological-sense to have than for, say, coffee; which is more of a commodity. Yes, it is part of most American’s morning routine to grab a coffee before work, school, with friends, or alone to get some work done. But coffee seems to be a thing, a routine, a transitional part of the day, that gets you going and you move on from the cup and its contents in a hasty fashion.

I also think this modern-day-consumer-psychological-sense of sustainability is also why most people do the ‘Three R’s” so wrong. Recycling bins are everywhere now which is great, and most people use them. But if you spell it out, recycle is the last “R” in its series. Its predecessors, “Reduce” and “Reuse”, seem to often be overlooked. Why? because that would stop people from consuming.

A banana takes 3 to 4 weeks to decompose in a landfill; a paper bag 1 month, a wool sock 1 year, cans 200 to 500 years and a plastic jug… 1 million years to decompose.

But, that plastic jug has a little arrow triangle on the bottom so you’re a holy saint and saving the planet for purchasing it, even though its more expensive than the store brand. Wrong.

We need to re think the way we see the concept of recycling, and understand that it was meant to be the last step in a sustainable system of consuming. Reduce the amount of money you spend on coffee, carry with you a sturdier, reusable plastic mug, and once its broke, recycle it.

The reason why recycling has been highlighted through product distributors and mainstream media is because it says nothing about limiting consumption, it just (in theory) means the goods will eventually disappear back into soil. (??) And consumers have launched on to the recycle band wagon because its an easy feel good that still lets us all indulge in the excess our culture teaches as normal, and in fact, the standard to achieve happiness.

So go out and get your reusable water bottle and thermos, and consider the implications of Reducing and Reusing as well as Recycling.