Is Using Less Plastic a Realistic Idea in the 21st Century?

Modern culture continues to have a robust debate about plastic pollution and recycling. In all the finger pointing and blame gaming, we occasionally see a proposal being offered. One such proposal is using less plastic. But is that a realistic idea in the 21st century?

On its face, combining less plastic consumption with better recycling solutions would help. But dig a bit deeper into the details and you will see devils waiting to ruin the plan. Recycling and reduced consumption could be the solution we have been looking for. But it might not work at all.

1. How Much Less Is Enough?

Reducing the amount of plastic that we use is a noble endeavor. It is probably one we should take a serious look at. But while we consider the idea, we also need to ask what the goal is. How much less is enough? Is it good enough to eliminate plastic food containers and leave it at that? Do we have to do away with consumer electronics?

Once we start down the road of consuming less plastic, we must examine every instance in which plastic is used. That is no small task. Just look around your own home. If you were to take an inventory of all the plastic you own, you might be surprised.

A Little Is Better than Nothing

One could make the case that even reducing plastic consumption a little bit is better than nothing at all. That being the case, there are some fairly easy things we could all do. First, we could stop buying coffee in disposable cups. How many millions of cups would not have to be made if we all carried a reusable mug to the coffee shop?

We could also stop using plastic straws, utensils, and plates. We could carry our groceries in fabric bags instead of going with the plastic ones. We could hold on to our cell phones and computers for longer, rather than replacing them every time a new model comes out.

2. Could We Ever Eliminate Plastic Entirely?

Reducing the amount of plastic that we use is one thing, completely eliminating it is another. Could we do away with it 100% if we actually wanted to? In theory, yes. But that would mean drastically altering our lifestyles almost to the point of making them unrecognizable. We would have to return to the days before plastic was a thing. How many of us are willing to do that?

Even rolling back to mimic what we did in the 1970s wouldn’t be enough to eliminate plastic entirely. We would need to go back to life before plastic was manufactured on a mass scale. That would mean turning the clock back to the early 1900s.

3. Can We Recycle Better?

If eliminating plastic entirely is not feasible, then combining efforts to use less with effective e-waste recycling seems the right way to go. That begs the question of whether we can recycle better? Yes, we can. We just have to look at the industrial model.

You rarely see complaints about plastic totes polluting beaches. Rather, complaints tend to relate to things like plastic bottles and bags. There is a reason behind that. Industrial plastics are more easily recycled as evidenced by companies like Tennessee-Based Seraphim Plastics. If we could change how we manufacture and utilize consumer plastics to match the industrial system, we could improve recycling dramatically.

Using less plastic in that 21st century may or may not be reasonable. But to the extent that it is, we need better recycling methods if reduced consumption is going to have any meaningful impact.

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