Photo Saverio Truglia
I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Are you listening?
Yes, I am.
Exactly how do you mean?
There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?
This was 1972 in the movie The Graduate, and already plastic had come to become a major force in American society. Today, it has become increasingly clear that plastic is becoming a threat to the oceans, soil, and planet.
It turns out that children are one of the biggest, if not the biggest, consumers of plastic. They are literally cocooned in plastic almost from the moment of birth. That pretty pink blanket is likely made with synthetic fabric that washes thousands of micro-plastics into the waters with every wash. The teething ring? Sippy cup? Car seat? Toys and their packaging? All plastic.
The preschool environments are as bad or worse. Check out the catalogs from the two major school supply houses, Discount School Supply and Lakeshore, and the only pages without plastic are the ones with books. How about the playground? Today the most popular equipment is made of plastic.
OK, plastic is cheap, can be easily sanitized, and is durable. Great. But from the child’s perspective, it is all the same experience. Plastic robs children of the complex sensor experience of natural materials. Even metal has more going for it on a physical level. At least it varies temperature with the weather. And, yes, there are some things that plastic does better than other materials do only with great difficulty. So, we are not advocating for no plastic, just less.
It turns out that the real problem isn’t so much that plastic is a pernicious solid waste. The problem is that it is made of petroleum. Oil is only cheap when you don’t factor in the environmental costs, which we are now coming to understand are unbelievably huge. There is a better way.
It has long been known that very good plastics can be made from alternative materials and that such plastics biodegrade in reasonable time frames and cause negligible damage to the environment or to children’s health. This is the future. For example, Lego is in the process of converting all its products and packaging to sustainable materials. They are even considering hemp-based bricks. Other materials such as bamboo, mushroom millicium, algae, and organic cotton are already becoming viable alternatives.
The big oil companies can be expected to fight the loss of their market tooth and nail. It is our responsibility to our children and the planet to stop buying products that are primarily petroleum-based plastic.