I’m pretty sure no one was as excited for plastic day as I was. Two great events, free water bottles, and a heated discussion make for a pretty good day in the world of campus events. The first speaker was Susan Freinkel, author of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story. Her presentation was interesting, because it was more focused on the history of plastic. Before plastic we had many sustainable practices, such as refillable glass milk bottles, but we also had unsustainable practices that exploited natural resources such as elephant tusks. Plastic was seen as a solution to this and was one of the key players in the whole better living through chemistry ( thank you Delaware.) Different types of plastic are used in our clothing, bomb production, improving carbon emissions of cars, and many other things. So plastics aren’t completely evil. The main problem came with the production of disposable plastics. Everything was turned into throw aways. Bags, kitchen utensils, packaging we’re so much more convenient than reusable goods. So now were in a position where 1/2 of all our plastic is single-use. And recycling isn’t the answer. Plastic is very expensive to recycle which leads to a large percentage of it ending up in our landfills or shipped to China. It’s hard for me to fathom us shipping plastic that was meant to be recycled being shipped to China, but I have heard it time and time again and seen video of it. Susan didn’t really go into particular dangers of plastic or solutions other than a cradle to cradle system, but overall it was pretty interesting.
Later that day, there was a screening of Bag It, a great documentary about a man researching the effect of plastic and other chemicals on our own bodies and on the environment. It was full of facts, a dramatic birthing scene, and somehow managed to be hilarious and depressing at the same time. They showed the effect of these plastics on your body through scientific tests. Then they showed the environmental impacts, such as the “recycling” sites in China and the South Pacific Garbage Patch. They also stressed the different ways we could help, such as bringing your own bag, bottle, silverware, everything. As always, we have the power as consumers to support sustainable businesses. After the movie they had a panel of professional discuss the issues which sparked a pretty heated conversation.