‘Well, this particular race appears to have prospered through the stone age, the iron and bronze ages, but succumbed to the plastic age – the rest of the planet’s species with them’ – a fitting epitaph from the aliens we never got around to meeting as they surveyed the congealed mess in front of them. Brought to mind when I bought a 50p packet of plastic ‘table decorations’ last weekend from a well-known card shop. Grey angular granules to be strewn around the wedding board to provide ‘colour’. Too small to recycle, destined to be swept up with dirty napkins and thrown in the bin.
We’re getting the message. Plastic waste is killing the oceans. The Asian waste bins don’t want our rubbish any more (they already have more than enough). We’re cutting down on plastic, recycling where we can, burying the rest – but without dramatic changes we will die off along with the animals we have slaughtered.
It’s a hard slog, though. Everything is double wrapped, mass production depends on its versatility and cheapness, and it comes in pretty colours. Disposing of it is complex. Chop it up and microparticles infest the oceans, burn it and you get toxic emissions, bury it and it lasts for thousands of years.
Like renewable energy, autonomous cars, urban expansion and sustainability, plastics are going to dominate our future – but not in a nice way. Widely used in all its forms throughout the construction industry, I would like to think that alternative and less harmful materials are being sought and tested.
PS. I bought the plastic bits to make just this point. A disgusting, tasteless and pointless bit of tat.
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