I remember when I was very young most things came in bottles or cans or were wrapped in paper or cardboard. My dad would buy a crate of soda for family consumption every now and then and the sodas would always come in large glass bottles that he would clean and re-crate when finished so that he could return them to the store for the deposit, which he would in turn use to purchase more soda…and let me tell you, those sodas would last for a long time. Back in those days you opened a bottle of soda and shared it with the family. There were no sodas for guzzling individually. That was just too much soda for one person at one sitting…and as we all knew, not the healthiest thing for children, teeth and dentist bills.
But then sometime during the sixties something happened and I remember seeing advertisements in the stores announcing what “Everyone had wanted and had been waiting for!” And it was finally here! No deposit, no return, plastic bottles! What a modern convenience for a modern world! Except I had no idea who had been hoping, waiting and praying for no return plastic bottles. Glass seemed just fine to me, but there we all suddenly were. Guzzling sodas of all sizes and shapes and throwing away the bottles. How convenient! How modern! How…just what we asked for?
And before long everything was encased, bottled or surrounded by plastics, or some such derivative of petroleum, even food. And it’s gotten so bad these days that I often have to resort to the use of a hacksaw or blasting caps to extricate whatever new thing I have bought just to get beneath the plastic it’s wrapped in!
Anyway, fast forward 50 years and we now have more than five trillion pieces of plastic, collectively weighing nearly 269,000 metric tons, floating in the world’s oceans, causing damage throughout our entire food chain, from large plastic pieces that can strangle large animals likes seals and turtles to smaller pieces that can be ingested by fish and then fed up the food chain, all the way to humans.
There are plastic bags and plastic bottles and plastic pieces of all shapes and sizes cluttering up our oceans and landfills all around the world. There is even the now famous “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” the size of Texas…yes, Texas…the state!!…hovering somewhere out in the Pacific Ocean along with 4 other giant plastic patches scattered about the rest of our world’s oceans and seas.
And researchers say that things are just going to get worse because…oh you know…we are increasing the production of throwaway plastics! Of course we are! Which takes me back to that grocery store sign that I wondered about oh so many years ago…”It’s just what we’ve always wanted”, isn’t it?”
But on the bright side, okay, dim side, we now have recycling! Unfortunately despite my efforts to push the big blue can to the curb every other week, we only recycle 5% of the world’s plastic crap every year. So plastics are winning. But not to worry because on the flip side of this horrific ecological story is the even darker fact that if we keep on fishing our oceans and dumping our plastics the way we are fishing and dumping them now, (You know for profit) scientists say that by the year 2050 there will be no fish left to choke on the plastics… anyway!
Which is just what I’ve always wanted isn’t it?… because I don’t like fish! Nothing personal mind you. They just taste fishy to me… But sadly, the 3 billion people in our world who rely on fish for their major source of protein and sustenance will be rather put out, along with the fish of course, who together just might be facing the all too familiar, and all too plastic, fate of: …no deposit…no return.