S Sense

Rubbish is the defining trait of our culture.

And Im not just talking television.

Present day archaeologists dig into the history of ancient cultures looking for rare remnants of that society. Every now and then, delicately excavating with gloved hand and soft brush, they discover a clay shard of an old cup. Hooray! A shard!

Whole civilisations came and went leaving little physical trace of their impact. Biodegradable cultures.

Archaeologists of the future will not have to delicately dig. Theyll be able to reach out and touch the nearest rubbish mountain. Therell be plastic bags, refrigerators, old computers, exercise machines and, um, plastic bags everywhere marking the passage of each fad and fashion in this consumer culture. Fads come and go but junk is forever.

Easter Island had its statues; we got our plastic bags.

In the old days (before 1950) most rubbish was biodegradable. Cavemen could just drop their mammoth pelvic bone dinner plate when it cracked and it would return to the soil. Audrey Hepburn took her groceries home in a paper bag.

Then came cheap (if you dont count the environmental cost) plastic. Gee, the stuff you can do with oil.

You cant buy anything anymore without it being wrapped in plastic usually hard, moulded, and impossible to get open (if youre a human unattracted to masochism).

So I bought a pair of scissors to cut through the packaging that surrounds most everything you buy.

But the scissors I bought came in plastic packaging.

Oh dear.

Thats when I got packaging rage. It wasnt pretty. I cut my foot (dont ask) but the scissors remain smug in their airtight package.

In 1997 an American sailor and oceanographer named Charles Moore was taking a shortcut with his catamaran across the North Pacific after a yacht race (as you do) when he sailed into a large patch of plastic garbage floating way out there in the ocean.

And I mean large.

Floating just below the surface and containing plastic bags, cigarette lighters, condoms and all manner of disposable things, this patch of plastic soup is larger than the US!

Its estimated around 100 million tonnes are floating there. About 2.5 per cent of all the plastic items made since 1950.

These places where the oceans flotsam congregates are called gyres. Flotsam used to be organic and degradable. Not anymore.

Apparently theres another gyre near Antarctica also filling up with plastic.

Now, that non-degradable rubbish is not the responsibility of the person who dumped it what else can ya do with rubbish? Putting it in a bin is just hiding it. I reckon a lot of that floating plastic started its junk career in a bin.

That plastic junk is the responsibility of the people who made it. Theyre manufacturing long-lasting, turtle-choking rubbish and spreading it around the planet for profit.

Thats just rude.

How do you let manufacturers and retailers know you dont want un-biodegradable packaging?

Write a letter? Send an email? Burn your individually packaged toothpicks in a ritual ceremony outside Plastics R Us?

No. Just leave your plastic packaging at the check-out.

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