The 3R’s are overused and misunderstood. I think people for the most part forget the first 2 R’s and concentrate on the last one: Recycling. But what is needed is a different mindset on waste. So I came up with the 4 P’s instead of the 3 R’s. What are the 4 P’s? Pause, Protect, Promote & be Proactive.
Pause: What is the material? Do I need it?
Protect: Take care of your personal health; your community; the health of the environment.
Promote: Be a voice for healthy alternatives for you and your community.
Proactive: Set up zero waste or waste minimization programs at your school, home, office. “Start from where you are, work from your field of influence.” Write to companies about the packaging of their products. Seek out of create alternatives.
Here’s an interview I did with Prana Nutrition Cures on plastics and the effects of exposure on human health. The characteristics that define plastic – it’s cheap, its durable, it’s flexible, it’s lightweight – have led to plastic’s prevalence around the globe. But it’s durability is the same reason why it is so environmentally damaging: it doesn’t go away. Additionally, plastics are made with a whole concoction of chemicals, and the ramifications of surrounding ourselves with petrochemicals are now becoming more clear. Specific plastics to be wary of include numbers three, six and seven. Watch full video here
The US Toxic Substance Control Act was created in 1976, and at this time the 62,000 chemicals already in use were ‘grandfathered’ into the system. Since 1976, 20,000 new chemicals have been introduced into our production cycles – into our ecosystems and into households – and only 200 of these chemicals have gone through intense review, and of these only 5 have been banned. Only 5 out of over 80,000. And regulations don’t even begin to get into the compounding effects of multiple chemical exposure, and in modern society we are bombarded by a chemical cocktail everyday. For instance, even if we want to know what chemical additive substances are in plastics, oftentimes this mix is a highly guarded company secret. Tragically, the accumulation of plastics of all size will be a source of undeterminable global contamination to deal with in the future ~ We need a precautionary principle when dealing with chemicals to limit exposure for all sentient beings, after all humans are not the only ones effected ~
Recycling is a misunderstood word. People often associate it as a positive action, with beneficial results for society. However, race-to-the bottom globalization of the waste trade has resulted in a situation where recycling is often not a service actually provided by global north countries, but something outsourced to the global south. Countries ship their waste 1000s of miles to be processed with no accountability or transparency as to ‘what these recycling processes’ consist of. Oftentimes, these processes are little more than backyard and/or informal operations in places with nonexistent environmental and labor law enforcement, that damage both the environment and the health of the workers (especially when processing plastics and e-waste, as workers really have no awareness of the chemical dangers of these materials). In this case in Indonesia, containers are marked as ‘recycling’ but really contain mixed waste. This intentionally-deceptive trade is happening more and more frequently now that China has stopped taking the world’s waste/recycling. Global north countries can afford to send the containers, and there is always someone in lax governance countries to take the bribe. In Sri Lanka, recently even hospital waste was found hidden within ‘recycling’ waste containers. I think that for materials to be truly ‘recyclable’ there needs to be means to process the materials within a 100mi radius, for instance, to make the processes accountable, to keep resources circulating within a bioregion, to minimize carbon footprints of transport, and to facilitate the materials awareness needed to minimize and eliminate toxic waste streams and replace with regenerative and nontoxic materials. There is no away, and acknowledging this opens up a window of opportunity to transform a broken system with creative, local responses for resource/materials accountability.
Follow more of Stiv’s work here at The Story of Plastic: https://www.storyofplastic.org/
As long as there is increased production of plastics, we will have increasing and accumulating plastic pollution across the globe, in urban and remote areas as these microplastics cannot be contained. Most companies are still designed around this endless growth model (increased sales and distribution of plastic products), thinking making products that ‘could’ be recycled will be ok. But, first off we don’t even have the infrastructure for this and even if we did, we cannot recycle our way out of this mess.
Article is on the TRILLIONS of plastic pieces that flow into San Francisco Bay every year. And SF is a place that cares about reducing plastics, that has made several bans against certain kinds of plastics. Think about the global damage.
We are not responding as a society to the harm that we do. Human response mechanisms are numbed. We have forgotten how to listen and interact with nature and the other species on this planet. Pretty soon she (nature) will cry no more, and then it will be too late.
There are only between 10-25,000 Blue whales on the planet. Our plastic production completely dwarfs the awe and beauty of nature. It’s hard to realize the scale and scope of the destruction of our current system sitting from one perspective, but taken as a whole globally, it is frightening.
Powerful feelings of loss in the face of cruel destruction; of nature-based ways of life disappearing; of oppressive ways of living on this planet stomping out place-based, traditional knowledge; of history repeating itself…”You destroy our lands, poison the planet and sow death, because you are lost. And soon it will be too late to change” …as if uttered with the same breath of Chief Joseph….”I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.”