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Opinion

Can't live without it but having problems living with it


  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Jan. 17, 2023 - 7:50 PM

Can't live without it but having problems living with it

The Newnan Times-Herald

Mr. Wanderlust wandered up to Maryland and Delaware last week. It seems that there were some ducks up there that needed their picture taken.

When he is out wandering, his chores at home fall to me. His chores include, among other things, putting the recycling where it goes as well as gathering up the trash the night before the trash truck comes.

Mr. Wanderlust doesn't do anything halfway. A few years back he put up some shelves in the carport and put 10 large plastic bins on them for recycling. Each recycled material has its own bin, i.e., tin cans, plastics, cereal-type boxes, newspapers, glass, etc.

As I carried out the items for recycling each evening, I noticed that the plastics bin filled up in no time, and I had half filled up a second bin with plastic while the other bins were practically empty. I started thinking about how much we depend on plastic in our lives every day.

The word plastic comes from the Greek verb plassein, which means "to mold or shape." Plastics have the capacity to be shaped thanks to their chemical structure.

We start our day by turning off our plastic alarm clock and checking the weather on our plastic cell phones in their plastic cases. We dress in clothing made of polyester and put on shoes that look like leather but are made of plastic.

We walk on carpeting made of plastic fibers or plastic floors that look like wood. We head to the kitchen, where we make coffee in a plastic Keurig using plastic K-pods. We pour our orange juice out of a plastic bottle into a plastic glass (oxymoron).

We sit on a plastic chair cushion and turn on the TV made of plastic. When we finish, we brush our teeth squeezing toothpaste from a plastic tube onto our plastic toothbrush. You get the picture.

In 1933, Ralph Wiley, a lab worker at Dow Chemical Company, discovered plastic wrap by accident while cleaning lab equipment and found a film inside one vial was not coming off. After further experimentation, Wiley discovered the substance was clingy, resisted chemicals and was impervious to air and water.

This was the birth of what we depend on in the kitchen every day: plastic wrap. It was first called Saran Wrap. The name was coined by using Wiley’s wife’s and daughter’s first names, Sarah and Ann, respectively. It wasn't until 1953 that Saran Wrap first appeared in stores. It advertised that it would keep foods fresher and block odors.

The popularity of plastic is due not only to its low production costs but also its numerous practical characteristics, including its low weight.

However, the large consumer use of plastic presents many problems. Much plastic ends up in the garbage dump and can pollute the environment for years and years since it is non-biodegradable.

Scientists are working every day to make plastics safer by replacing chemicals that may cause harm to our health and reducing plastics in products like water bottles. Remember when you could get a bottle of water and it wouldn’t crush before you finished drinking it?

A little research showed these astonishing facts about plastics today:

• The amount of plastic produced in a year is roughly the same as the entire weight of humanity.

• Humans use about 1.2 million plastic bottles per minute in total.

• Virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists except those that have been incinerated.

• Five trillion plastic bags are produced worldwide annually. It can take up to 1,000 years for a bag to disintegrate completely.

• Americans alone use half a billion plastic drinking straws every day.

• Americans alone throw away around 25 billion Styrofoam coffee cups every year.

At least 14 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year. Many countries lack the infrastructure to prevent plastic pollution such as sanitary landfills, incineration facilities and recycling capacity.

The law of conservation of mass states that “the mass in an isolated system can neither be created nor be destroyed; it only changes form.”

We can help cut down on the ever-growing use of plastic by being less wasteful, using reusable bags when shopping, recycling and using Brita or Zero water filters instead of buying plastic bottled water, etc.

Let's hope that scientists who deal with this law continue to develop ways to make plastic safer for humans and Mother Earth.

Margaret Hudson Kilgore lives in Sharpsburg with her husband Gordon Kilgore (aka Mr. Wanderlust) and two furbabies, Miss Lulu Bichon and Miss Mia Maltese. Margaret can be reached at margaretkilgore160@gmail.com .