When I was hanging out with my parents last week, my Dad had me watch a show he had recorded on the Sundance channel. It was called Addicted to Plastic and it was a beyond-freaking-belief eye opener. I have tried to find a website dedicated to the information that the show provided, but I have come up empty-handed. I did, however, learn that you can buy the documentary, which runs about an hour and a half, and I encourage you to watch it if you have the time.
Basically, it’s a documentary about a guy who wanted to know just what becomes of all this plastic in our lives. Plastic is absolutely everywhere we turn! I was amazed at all the things that are made of plastic – and all the things we can actually DO with the resulting leftovers.
Later, mom and I were discussing the documentary and I confessed that I had no idea that some fabrics were plastic. I knew polyester, rayon and nylon were synthetic, but I never grasped the concept of them being “plastic.” (Sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake.) And then mom reminded me of something I had waaaaaay in the back of my mind.
“Remember when your dad caught himself on fire?”
(No joke, people. This really happened. It was like watching a movie stunt gone bad. He threw gasoline on a previously-burned wood pile and was an instant fireball from the waist up. Fortunately, this was right at the edge of a lake and he threw himself into the water. But he suffered second and third degree burns. It’s a vision I will never forget.)
Mom continued, “He was wearing a poly-blend shirt. It melted to his body and hardened instantly. I had to peel the [resulting] plastic off of him, taking skin with it.”
Needless to say, she only buys him cotton shirts now. He is a wee bit accident prone, you see.
What I learned from the documentary is that plastic never goes away. The narrator states very plainly that every bit of plastic that has ever been made, with the small exception of what has been incinerated, still exists on our earth (and worse, in our oceans!) It doesn’t ever biodegrade because it was never “bio” in the first place. We are basically stuck (no pun intended, Daddy) with all the plastic we have ever made. Coke bottles, WalMart bags, Tupperware…it’s here to stay, no matter what we try to do with it.
The things that impressed me the most about the documentary are the individuals and small companies who are busting their butts to make a difference with the leftover plastics. I didn’t bother to write any of their information down while I was watching the show because I just knew I could find all I needed about them on the Internet. Sadly, I was mistaken.
There is a company that turns used plastic into dirt filler (though they mentioned that you probably don’t want to garden with synthetic dirt). There is a lady in Africa who picks up plastic bags and recycles them into really nice looking purses (they were cute as a button. I’d love to support her project and buy one – or several). There are companies manufacturing biodegradable subsitutes for plastic. And there are companies in other countries who are researching ways to chemically convert plastic back into its original petroleum form – perhaps even making it usable as a fuel source. They say in one part of the documentary (and in the trailer I linked above) that our landfills could become “the oil wells of the future.”
How cool would that be?!! If we could actually make some positive use of all the permanent waste we have created through our insatiable appetites for plastic product?
I was able to find one small interview with Ian Connacher, the maker and narrator of the film. Maybe if enough people tune in to what he is saying, we can stop sending so much plastic into the ocean. Ahhhh, going green to keep it blue. What a concept.