The Plastic Problem by Rachel Salt
The Plastic Problem packs a lot of information in only 80 pages by utilizing real color photos, graphs, & drawings explaining what plastic is, how it is made, the various items in the typical home that are plastic, the plastic in our groceries, how plastic creates a lot of waste, the damage plastic causes to coral & islands, that it creates deadly debris such as floating garbage patches, how wildlife think plastic is food, microplastics, plastic through the food web, how there is plastic in humans, plastic toxicity, global issues, global solutions, & the future.
This slender book does a brilliant job illustrating through text & photography, the damages that our overuse of plastic is causing to our environment. Most disturbing is that plastic is now inside all of us. In human stool samples, out of all the people sampled, 100% had plastic in their feces. Seriously concerning. The book illustrates how plastic is in our water, soil, foods, & animals, islands of plastic floating in our oceans, beaches covered in plastic, on & on it goes.
Yet, on page 58 I felt like I was reading a different book.
The author argues why "we can't completely ban plastic" The reasons why are weak at best. She actually argues that using a reusable canvas shopping bag is more environmentally damaging because it contributes more to global warming than plastic bags. Fine. But a cotton canvas bag will break down naturally. A plastic bag will not. Remember plastic in our poop? Next, let's pick on a cotton t-shirt. It seems that a plastic polyester t-shirt requires less water, therefore the author feels it is better than a cotton t-shirt. I happen to grow organic heirloom cotton. I can't speak for conventional hybrid &/or genetically modified cotton, but I can speak for what I grow. The cotton I grow enjoys a nice drink, but it has never required more watering then any of the lettuces, herbs, squash, beans, peppers, strawberries, blueberries, or other crops I organically grow. And, let's not forget the whole thing about how polyester could take 1000 years to break down (but never disappear, now it's just nano sized), while cotton breaks down naturally because, it's natural. Sorry, but I'm sticking with cotton canvas & cotton clothing over stuff made from fossil fuels.
It doesn't end with picking on cotton. What about cars? Plastic is in our cars, so they weigh less therefore plastic is better than steel. The reason is because it will cost less in fuel. Fuel from fossil fuels. The same fossil fuels that made the plastic in the car. Yet, somehow it's better. Here we go with that little problem of plastic never truly breaking down. It amazes me that for the first 57 pages this is rammed home, but now it is suddenly better than something that does break down. What?!?!
Food packaging is also picked on for virtually the same reason. Glass weighs more than plastic. What about all the chemicals that leach into the foods & the garbage problem? But but but plastic weighs less so it costs less to transport; uses less fuel. Again, the fuel that fuels the transportation system is from the same source that fuels our plastic nations.
The only area where I mostly agree with the author is regarding the medical field. Plastic creates one time use which greatly helps to reduce the risk of cross contamination.
After this "why we cannot live without plastic" nonsense the book gets back on track with The 6R's: Reduce, Reuse, Rethink, Repair, Refuse, & Recycle. Here common sense advice is given to reduce our personal plastic usage. In my home we avoid buying foods in plastic containers & jars, opting for glass whenever possible. We also grow as much of our own food as possible. We then can that food in glass mason jars that are likely to outlive us. We buy clothing made from natural fibers such as cotton, wool, hemp, & leather. If we can afford it, we buy these things organic. No polyester filled blankets or jackets. We opt for wool or down. I'd love if my home was Zero Waste, but even though it's not, we do strive to do our part to reduce our plastic usage.
The biggest way we as consumers have a voice is with how we spend our money. Corporations listen to dollar signs, not our voices. If you buy it, you support it.
Overall, if it wasn't for the 360 degree point of view change on page 58, I would have loved this book. It is laid out in a very user friendly way. It is educational & holds the readers attention. It is a keeper, suitable for kids & adults alike.
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