The Big Plastic Update

Paul Goettlich
8 March 2023

The big plastic news is that nothing is new regarding the plastic plague. Keep reading…

Manufacturers continue to increase production while there are no meaningful laws governing plastics in any country on Earth. There may be some that, to the untrained eye, appear to reduce production or consumption. But nothing has changed in the attitudes of anyone involved. Neither manufacturer, consumers or lawmakers have changed the way they view plastics. At the same time, all environmental, societal and human indicators are worsening.

Plastics recycling has decreased over the last few years from 10% to 5%, representing just the first time the plastic is recycled. A few years ago, about 2% was recycled more than once. Today it’s not even mentioned that it’s not recycled more than once or that the 5% refers to it happening only once. All the facts are fuzzy at the edges. And it all goes on as if real data has been crunched by actual scientists and not just corporate scientists who promote the causes of the synthetic polymer industry.

With those data on plastic recycling in mind, the word must be revised to ‘reuse’ because plastics are indeed NOT being recycled. Not at any point in time have they been recycled or will they be recycled in the future. The term to recycle plastics was a catchy phrase that portrayed plastics in a good light when the industry knew all along that it was fiction meant to prolong production while placing the cost of handling plastic wastes onto municipalities, states and countries.

There are many reasons why plastics cannot actually be recycled. The word recycling indicates a closed loop of use. Some of the reasons it can’t be recycled are chemical in character. Many are logistical. None will be solved. Don’t be fooled by advertising stating a new process that makes that particular corporation’s product recyclable. There are no new discoveries.

Biodegradable plastics might actually do so in laboratory conditions, but not in the real world. They don’t biodegrade in those enormous as-high-as-the-sky piles. Nor do they very far below the surface of water. Biodegrading requires a set of variables that are not found in those piles. They normally end up being incinerated, which throws those tons of plastics into the atmosphere as greenhouse gasses, long-lasting toxic chemicals and particulates that travel around the globe because gravity is insufficient to bring them back to Earth. But when they do get back by being rained out of the skies, they fall back on soil, water, trees, animals and crops. Don’t believe what I write? Have your own body tested for a wide range of synthetic chemicals derived from plastics. If there is a place where plastics haven’t been found, it’s because it hasn’t been investigated and written about yet.

Meanwhile, all plastics are toxic in one way or another. Some of the chemicals in plastics can simply irritate the body. Other chemicals can cause various cancers. Some disrupt the endocrine system at extremely low concentrations —  single-digit parts-per-trillion. That’s about the same level at which hormones act in our bodies.

Considering that no plastic is perfectly made —not perfectly polymerized— there are always toxic chemicals available to migrate into whatever they contact. Plastics are made by forcing toxic chemicals together with great heat, pressure and chemical processes call polymerization. Those processes always end with extra monomers. Polymerization makes monomers into synthetic polymers or plastics in this case. The base plastics are never perfect. Then many additional toxic chemicals are added at various stages. These are not bound in any way to the base plastics, which already leak toxic chemicals.

Nothing has changed with regard to the basics of plastics. Many new and novel plastics have been created. But the same principal that all are imperfect remains and will never change because it is counter to natural laws of energy.

None of these corporate manufacturers of plastics actually believe they can make a perfect plastic. None actually believe they can recycle plastics. None actually believe that nontoxic plastics can be made.

All attempt to make us think it’s all good. As if with enough time, all problems of plastics will be solved. They even have many possibly well-meaning scientists on board, hoping it’s all true. I know many large environmental nonprofit organizations are on board with industry ideas. A couple popular notions of so-called ‘green’ ideas are the ‘Circular Economy’ and ‘Green Chemistry’, both of which are delusional and defy common sense. They appeal to wishful thinkers and those who steer those projects toward fame and a living performing in front of other wishful thinkers.

Wishful thinking dictates that if they can end the use of plastic straws or bags or whatever, that they’ll ‘save the world’ when all they’ll accomplish is to distract people from the fact that no plastic problems are being solved. At the same time, plastics production is increasing. Many of those environmental organizations are supported by corporations that have close ties to the plastics industry. They are trapped by the fact that they cannot upset those funders. The same is true of corporate support for major organizations which deal with cancers, diabetes, heart issues and so on.

While I attempt to use as little plastic as possible, it is not actually possible to avoid it while living anywhere on Earth. This is not a consumer issue as the industry continually claims. This is a political problem in which industry controls using its massive donations, advertising and control of scientific boards and legislative committees.

In conclusion, I will end at the beginning where I stated that ‘the big plastic news is that nothing is new regarding the plastic plague.’ The only thing different here is that the plague is growing with each waking moment. It’s not new. Everyone knows it can’t go on. And yet it does because extremely few recognize and/or are willing to admit that it must stop. And the only way to begin is to halt its production.

I condemn plastic production and demand it be halted immediately. But even that is not new. I’ve stated the same damnation for more than 20 years. Don’t fall into the psychological trap that corporations have set. It’s all been caused by those manufacturers who have created an incredible mess of life on Earth. Holding them accountable at this stage is pointless. They must be forced to stop.

Then essentially all products must be reinvented. All that we’ve become accustomed to over the last 80 years must be changed. Remembering the rapidly increasing effects of climate change, we may well be out of time. I still would like to see the end of plastics and witness the demise of those corporations that exist only to profit.

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