Plastic Disposables Are Not Disposable by Design
A disposable is made for using and throwing away. True. But does that mean it is ok to do so? Have we tried to see the consequence such actions may have?
There are two aspects I understand to a disposable product - Price and purpose. While the price depends on a number of factors like materials, colour, quality etc the purpose remains the same - convenience and hygiene. Ever used a plastic water bottle instead of reusable water glass or eaten in a thermocol plate at home because your maid wasn't coming to do the dishes. I believe for most of us the answer is yes. By design disposable products are made to get you rid of your headaches of washing, storing and maintaining. And that is their SINGLE BIGGEST PROBLEM.
We forgot down the line that a disposable must be designed also in relation to its ultimate fate - i.e. being discarded. From the days of eating out of leaves and wood, we came to era of plastics. But truth is the Earth cannot digest plastics. Nature works by building up and breaking down and wee are trashing tons of material everyday that won't break down. EVER.
Plastics have never occurred naturally, so 'naturally', organisms do not know how to digest them. And if that isn't already a big enough waste hazard alarm, consider this.
Disposables don't come out of thin air and they definitely don't end that way either. There is a lot of fuel, water and energy that goes into producing one product. The product also never breaks down and does not have the ability to release this energy stored in it back to the surroundings. It is just bad economics if you keep on saving but never re-invest. Same logic applies here. What happens when we run out of resources just for the sake of convenience. Is it going to be worth it?
And ofcourse to add to this there is alot of data and statistics that we keep reading out. "How many times could diaper waste circle the earth, or how many plastic bottles are there per unit fish in the ocean, the health problems with cancer." All that is just waste unless we really make use of the knowledge and do something about it.
So what can be done?
Today when we use a disposable it is convenient for us but it is terrible for the planet. We need to somehow expand the extent of this convenience to include our environment and those living around us. We must design newer materials that do not poison the planet and at the same time we must adopt measures that make it 'inconvenient' to trash single use products without proper attention. This would include strict policies and regulations.
We sometimes get too fixated on the economics of things and the price points which really suppresses our ability to find a solution. For us the problem is plastic, it is the pollution, the death of life- ours and of other animals and our concern should be the well being of the planet. If this has to come at the cost of an entire economy driven by plastic manufacturing then it may well be so. We can't regard the economy as important while drafting this solution because frankly for the economy plastics are not bad and we will once again fail to see the problem.
As consumers we must chose to reject that what harms our planet and as producers we just need to react to the consumers changing demand. The solutions will automatically appear.
- Abhishek Agarwal