Is it Better to Recycle or Ban Plastic?

We recently posted a link on our Facebook page about Concord, Massachusetts, being one of the first communities in the U.S. to ban the sale of single-serving water bottles, and someone responded, “Why don’t you just make it mandatory to recycle?” Good question. If only it were that simple. Unfortunately, recycling plastic isn’t easy. It comes in many forms that can’t be comingled, and the process is further complicated by additives (reinforcements, fillers, and colorants). In sum: Recycling plastic is expensive. It’s often cheaper to make new plastic than to recycle.

The answer is, as Concord elected, to simply quit using it. Thanks to such films as Bag It (Mountainfilm 2009) and other campaigns, the future of this petroleum-based, non-biodegradable, ocean-polluting, animal-poisoning invention is hopefully endangered. If you follow us on Facebook or pay close attention to the environmental news, you may have noticed a trend starting to emerge.

Plastic bags in many communities are being banned. From the island nation of Mauritius to Cupertino and Glendale, California, the availability of free single-use plastic bags at stores is on the decline. Even our hometown of Telluride, Colorado, has instituted new legislature to reduce plastic bag use.

Not surprisingly, these bans are not yet working perfectly. Some businesses are taking advantage of loopholes in the law and printing “reusable” on the same old plastic bag (as reported in Grist, “There’s a Hole in My Plastic Bag Law”). We remain optimistic, however, that the kinks will eventually disappear.

But single-use plastic bags and bottles are just a drop in the bucket. Take a look around your home. How much plastic do you have? How much plastic packaging is in your trash? From children’s toys to kitchen gadgets, we have accepted plastic as a cheap alternative. Most of it, if not all, isn’t necessary.

If you struggle with remembering to bring your own reusable water bottle or shopping bag with you, check out artist Chris Jordan’s work (shown above and an exhibitor in past Mountainfilm Gallery Walks). He has two series, Midway and a few pieces in Running the Numbers, that address the issue of plastic graphically — some are beautiful images and all are grimly educational.

Photo Credits: 

Images created by photographic artist Chris Jordan.

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