The Day I Thought I Ran Out of Plastic
Believe it or not, there was once a time when I actually thought that I was going to run out of plastic. The County that I live in in had enacted a plastic bag ban and my products had just started gaining in popularity. “Oh Well,” I thought – running out of plastics is actually the goal. It wouldn’t be too long, however, until I realized how small I was thinking. A fender-bender in a parking lot would totally change my perspective.
One day, my Prius was hit at work and sustained some pretty decent damage. (Yes, I drive a Prius – go figure.) This accident brought me to an auto-body shop which happened to be owned and operated by a family friend. Upon entering the shop, I was instantly distracted by all of the plastic that I was seeing. Every auto body part in there was wrapped in plastics and protected by bubble wrap. I forgot all about my damaged vehicle and wanted to know how to get my hands on these materials!
This was the moment which opened my eyes to what I now call “behind-the-scenes” waste. In just a few minutes I went from worrying that I would run out of “upcycling” supplies to worrying about the amount of plastics being thrown away by the businesses in my community. I was also embarrassed by even having had the thought that just plastic shopping bags were “the problem.” Everything comes to Hawai‘i shipped and wrapped in plastics. In fact, it became very apparent that shopping bags were just a drop in the bucket compared to the overall volume of sheet plastics ending up in our landfills.
The question was no longer if I would run out of supplies – I was now wondering how in earth I could ever process that amount of material. I could see no real shortage of post-consumer plastics for the foreseeablefuture which resulted in my being much more aware of the true total cost of our global shipping economy.
There has been a lot of talk lately about banning single use plastics such as straws, utensils and bags – all FANTASTIC ideas – but we also need to re-evaluate our packaging protocols and give some attention to that “behind-the-scenes” waste that piles up without a second (and in most cases first) thought. As we trade on a global scale we need to plan accordingly for how to handle the by-products from all of our packaging and shipping.
For me, this realization has also re-iterated the importance of shopping local. Not only are you supporting your community’s economy, but you are minimizing the carbon footprint of your consumption. When we buy our goods more directly we, in turn, create less waste and better profit margins. Have you ever thought about the amount of packaging involved in the transportation of the items you buy? Now I do all the time which reminds me that I have LOTS of plastic waiting for a new life via upcycling so I’d better put down my pencil and get back to work ;-)