Guilt by plastic

In a pathetic turn of events, I'm pretty sure the strongest feeling I can muster (after the bliss of sunbathing) is guilt.

Guilt about being mean. Guilt about using a bad tone of voice. (Obviously there's a lot of guilt going on over here.) And another biggie - guilt when buying anything plastic.

After a recent comment about the evils of plastic, a friend asked, Why are you anti-plastic?

Good question. Have you noticed how many ways that concern for the environment can exhibit itself? Some people care primarily about energy and / or emissions; others care about the source of their food and what chemicals might be on it (and therefore in them). Others are most concerned about safe building products, water pollution, the list is endless. As for me, while I care about it all, what really gets my skin crawling is thinking about landfills and the vast quantity of crap we put in them. You know that picture of the families around the world and what they eat? The American fam has 400 tons of junk food and other "food" items placed in front of them, while a family from Africa has a pile of lentils. There is plenty of commentary to pull from those images. And, all I can think about is, Forget about the awful / unhealthy eating habits. All those Doritos bags are going straight in the landfill.

Plastic sits in a landfill forever. Forever. There will be another ice age before that stuff biodegrades, baby. Hence the guilt when cheese wrapped in plastic ends up in my shopping cart. Recently, though, I had a much bigger problem. It became apparent that I needed seating for my deck - pronto. No time to monitor Craigslist for as long as it takes to find the perfect used item at the right price (like the vintage aluminum chairs with vintage vinyl cushions above - courtesy of an excursion to Aurora). Sure, the Craigslist search occurred, but only really freakin' ugly things are out there right now. (Summer rush on seating, apparently.) With no time to wait, what's an anti-landfill gal to do?



True confessions: there is plastic on its way to my house. But! Wait! It's recycled plastic. It's furniture made from milk jugs. Not optimal, but as this article from Houzz states:

“According to a study by Columbia University, it's estimated that in 2008, 33.6 million tons of postconsumer plastic waste was generated in the United States. Of that only 6.5 percent was recycled and 7.7 percent was burned for energy. This means that 28.9 million tons of plastic went to landfills.”

Yikes! But, the benches on their way to my deck? They're milk jugs being averted from the landfill. And that IS something I can get behind. Obviously. The next time you're looking for a decking material, a bathtub, a rug, how about checking out the options that use recycled plastic (see the above article for some examples of awesome design from recycled plastic to be used throughout the house)? Then we'll all sleep better, and the landfills will be a little bit emptier. All you have to do is make some smart shopping decisions. Easy peasy.

Portlander Nancy Ranchel is a self-described accountant, design fan, serial re-modeler, compulsive re-user and blog writer.

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