The Sins of Convenience- The Lies You Believe About Plastic

Let's Talk About Plastic

9/23/20227 min read

What’s up Free People!

Welcome back to Smoke & Theories!

Today we are talking about all the filthy plastic lies.

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Plastic was first invented way back in 1869 by John Wesley Hyatt as a replacement for Ivory. The first fully synthetic plastic called Bakelite was created in 1907 by Leo Baekeland as an electric insulator. In World War 2 is where plastic really began taking flight. Nylon was created for things like rope and parachutes and plexiglass was created and used as aircraft windows. During this time, plastic production went up 300%.

But now that the war was over, what were we going to do with it? Give it to the people of course.

More and more of what consumers purchased were being packaged in plastics, or in some cases, made out of plastics. We saw plastic replace steel in the automotive industry. We saw plastic replace wood in furniture. And we saw plastic replace glass and paper in packaging.

However, fresh out of the great depression, Americans were just taking their new plastic, washing it out and reusing it… That can’t be good for business. Big bucks were then spent on advertisements stating that single use was the way of the future. Getting more and more Americans to throw away their plastic meant more money could be made on new shiny plastic.

This was great for a while… Until in 1960, we started finding plastic in the ocean. The American people quickly became disenchanted with this single use plastic and demanded that solutions be created. This was a magical time in America where people were truly concerned about the environment.

This is where things took a turn for the worse. The companies creating the plastic weren’t about to just cut off this money maker because we found it in the ocean. We can’t stop now; we have to dig in deeper. So, they started guilting the consumer about their wastefulness. How could you? Just use this product and then throw it away?

Heads of beverage and plastic manufacturers funded the creation of campaigns like Keep America Beautiful, who teamed up with the ad counsel to create the infamous crying Indian commercial, to make sure the consumer knew how heartbreakingly wasteful they were being. Then came the biggest lie of all. And it was the lie of recycling.

In the 1980s, the companies creating plastic, legitimately tried to come up with a way to reuse it, however it just didn’t work. The American people were not going to settle for “Sorry we tried”, so instead what they said was “you can recycle your plastic.”

And that lie still lives today.

For a while, they were able to conceal the lie because they were shipping almost all of our plastic trash to China. However, in 2018, they stopped taking any trash imports. Plastic companies tried several other countries, but were also met with a resounding no. They are still shipping a very small portion of the plastic used in America today to poorer countries who have less strict environmental laws, but the majority of it now stays here.

Up until this point, we haven’t really discussed what plastic is and who makes it, so let’s talk about it a little now. Plastic is any synthetic polymer created from fossil fuels. Meaning that all the big oil and gas companies are who is making all of the plastic. And they’re making billions off of it. And they are exactly why the recycling lie has never stopped.

It is much cheaper for the oil companies to make plastic out of fossil fuels than it is for them to make it out of plastic trash. There are only certain kinds of plastic that can even be recycled and even then, only 1 to 2 times because each time it is recycled it breaks down into a weaker version. Not to mention the fact that plastic has chemicals in it and recycled plastic isn’t regulated, so nobody really knows how many of those chemicals are showing up in our recycled plastic water bottles. And even worse, black plastic is generally made from recycled electronics, meaning it has fire retardant in it. Black plastic is used in everything from flatware, coffee and cocktail stirrers to kids’ toys.

There are currently 7 kinds of plastic that we use on a regular basis. The first is PET, Polyethylene Terephthalate or polyester. It is commonly used as food packaging because it prevents the flow of oxygen, keeping the food from spoiling for longer. It is also what the majority of water bottles are made out of. Despite the fact that it can be recycled, use of this type of plastic is discouraged because it contains the carcinogen antimony trioxide, which becomes more harmful the longer liquid stays inside of it.

Type 2 is High-Density Polyethylene or HDPE. You will often find this plastic making up things like milk jugs and shampoo bottles. It is recyclable and is also repurposed into plastic lumber and pipes.

Type 3 is Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC. PVC is often used in industrial and mechanical fields but is also used in the medical field as blood bags and tubes, but it is also the most toxic type of plastic. The manufacturing process and the disposal of this kind of plastic are extremely hazardous due to BPA, lead, dioxins, cadmium and mercury.

Type 4 is Low Density Polyethylene, which is what your sandwich bags, ketchup bottles, and food containers are made of. Although not as toxic as other plastics, LDPE has been shown to affect human hormones.

Type 5 is Polypropylene or PP. You will find this in hot food containers, diapers, sanitary napkins, car parts, bottle caps and thermal vests. Can you believe that something you put on your baby’s butt and on your vagina also makes car parts??

Type 6 is Polystyrene or PS, but you would better know it as Styrofoam. The main component in Styrofoam has been proven to be toxic to your brain.

Type 7 is other plastics that do not fall under the previous 6 categories, which includes polycarbonate or PC. PC should be avoided at all costs due to its high levels of BPA which has been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer and neurological impairments. (Maybe that’s what’s wrong with Americans…?)

Types 1 and 2 can be recycled, but again, only 1 or 2 times before it is too broken down to be useful. Types 3 thru 7 cannot be recycled.

I bet your town says it can, huh? Mine does.

So, if we are being told that it’s being recycled what is really happening to the plastic that can’t be recycled?

Best case scenario, it’s being buried in landfills. In fact, less than 10 percent of plastic has ever actually been recycled. The stuff that isn’t getting buried is being incinerated. The problem with that is that all of the chemicals in the plastics that we just talked about are polluting the air we breathe when the plastic is heated. Both options are destroying our planet.

The worst part is, is that this information is freely available to the public, but we don’t want to hear it. We would rather go on pretending. We would rather continue to have the convenience of plastic, than to hear that we are destroying our home because we can’t be inconvenienced.

Small legislation occasionally passes; however, oil companies and drink companies continually pay organizations like Keep America Beautiful to lobby against those legislations. I’m sure several of us have seen plastic bag bans go into effect in our area, only to be walked back a short time later. Also, I saw paper straw for about 3 months before that stopped.

Not to mention that plastic isn’t the only thing they are blaming on you, the carbon is your fault as well, remember? But what is it that they are using to create plastic? That’s right.

So, what can we do?

Well, the first thing we are going to do is promise each other that we are going to work towards progress not perfection. The odds are stacked against us by corporations that have billions of dollars, so we are doing what we can, where we can, and we are not beating ourselves up over not being perfect. Some is better than none.

We can literally choose anything other than plastic. When we go to the gas station to grab a drink, I choose Liquid Death. It comes in an aluminum can which is recyclable, and it is not just tap water in a plastic bottle. (That’s another thing. The same companies that are rallying against plastic bans are also just selling you tap water and telling you it’s clean and filtered.) There are now plenty of options for personal care products that no longer come in a plastic bottle. Try some of those. Bonus points if they don’t have perfume in them. Switch out plastic razors that have those nasty moisture strips on them. First those strips contain titanium dioxide, second, they make beautiful steel safety razors these days. As a matter of fact, I will start a plastic swap guide for you and put it up on our website. I will link it below and in our linktree once it’s up and I will let you know. Choose natural products any chance you get. Use real plates, not plastic. Use real flatware. Choose glass to store your food in. Buy wood, glass, paper, cardboard, cotton, linen, canvas even aluminum. Do anything you can to avoid purchasing plastic.

Start looking at what your clothing and bedding and towels are made out of. Polyester, nylon, lycra, vegan leather, spandex are all made out of plastic. Not only should you not be wearing plastic on your body (especially when you are working out or in the sun), but it can leech out into the water when you have it in the washing machine. Vegan leather is horrible for the environment. Buy real leather or buy things like cotton or canvas or linen.

Buy a bunch of canvas bags and stop using plastic grocery bags. Seriously, you can buy bulk canvas bags pretty inexpensive. If we stop using the bags, we don’t have to worry about the legislation over them. Also, either buy reusable vegetable bags, or don’t bag them. Let them roll around in your cart and hand them one by one to the cashier.

Obviously, none of these things are as easy as just going on about our lives the way we have been, blissfully ignorant to the lies we’ve been told. But if we keep ignoring lies and deception, so that we may not be inconvenienced, not too long from now, we will no longer be able to choose the path that we want to walk along. Our choices will be made for us, and we will be trapped, like genetically altered mice.

Please choose to be inconvenienced. Please choose to walk the harder path, so that we can make this world a better place for the next generation. Please. And thank you for choosing to do hard things. Go out into the world and don’t be assholes to each other. We’ll see you next time.