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From the Cradle to the Grave: Plastic Harms Life

by Laura Waldo-Semken 5/8/2020

Litterbugs are a nuisance but T-Rex Trashers are downright ominous. Let me tell you a story.

from Creative Commons: Shenandoah National Park, VA by jerbec

I was riding my bike this morning on my daily creek stompin’ litter pickin’ foray when I looked over and saw a beautiful buck with fuzzy antlers, a symbol of manifest virility. Soon those emerging fuzzy buds will be smooth, hard, strong and sharp, ready to defend territory. Dawn brings hope and this deer is my metaphor of the day.

I pick up about 20 gallons of single use plastics like bottles, packaging and bags, every day from Columbia’s creeks, mostly Hinkson and Flat Branch. I know there is so much more plastic that gets buried in the banks every time it rains- a new unwanted layer of the earth. But there is hope. The layer is yet thin. Half of all the world’s plastic has been produced in the last 15 years thanks to the abundant gas produced from fracking. That means the layer is only 15 years old. And the Break Free from Plastic movement is growing stronger and sharper and will be used to defend our territory, the earth. This movement toward cleaner energy and less waste is Feelin’ Stronger Everyday!

Me and my new birthday present…a trailer to haul plastic from the creeks.

The Break Free from Plastic movement is not the first chapter of concern about litter. Back in the 1960’s when we were being sold the wonders of plastic, folks noticed the litter and raised a ruckus, pointing the finger at the producers, the T-Rex Trashers. But Big Oil is making big money off plastic packaging so they decided to use marketing, appropriated a pseudo crying Indian and put the onus on the consumer, those pesky litterbugs.

Enter the next chapter when fracking allowed plastic to be cheap again. It is not a coincidence that half the worlds plastic has been produced in the last 15 years and in 2005 the US Energy Policy Act was passed. This act allows oil and gas companies exemptions to environmental and health regulations. The resultant shale gas boom created a glut of raw materials for plastic production. To add insult to injury, the oil and gas industry receives 5.2 trillion dollars in subsidies annually so that we are forced to buy vegetables wrapped in plastic.

And we cannot recycle plastic away. That is another lie promoted by Big Oil. Unlike aluminum and glass, plastic is very difficult to recycle. According to the World Economic Forum only 2 % of plastic is effectively recycled into a product as useful as the original product. The other 12% is downcycled into something that degrades over time. The rest becomes litter, or is buried with taxpayer money, or is incinerated to pollute the air.

With this glut of shale gas, new markets must be inundated with more plastic to feed the hungry industry. Countries like India, who thought they wanted the western convenience culture of single use plastic items, were bought and sold. Now folks are living in mountains of plastic garbage. There is no way to “manage” this waste away. But Big Oil has it all figured out. Not only is the litterbug to blame and the country without proper waste management infrastructure, but then taxpayers have to pay to manage Big Oil’s waste. We have been Sold American!

The movie, the Story of Plastic, spells out with horrific clarity the impressive hoax played by the T-Rex Trashers on all of us bugs. You can watch it here until May 17 thanks to the Sierra Club Kansas Chapter.

Yes, litterbugs are a nuisance but the T-Rex Trashers are deadly, predatory beasts destroying our beautiful home with their appetite for producing single use plastic products from subsidized oil and gas. From the cradle to the grave, plastic harms us and life on Earth forever. It’s time to close the loop and force the producers to take responsibility for their products from the cradle to the grave.

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