Plastic is everywhere. A good number of disposable plastic items pollute our land and water, and we all wish to something about this. But what?
While you will hear numerous ideas of how to decrease plastic pollution, a good many of them are not practical.
For instance, I have heard so many idealistic suggestions on completely eliminating plastic from our life. I mean, it will not be easy for us to avoid plastic – try it for a day, and you will agree with me. But aren’t there alternatives we can use? For some applications, yes, but for many applications, there are few if any non-polluting materials available as alternatives.
Let’s get practical.
So, what indeed are the practical ways to decrease plastic pollution?
Here are some suggestions:
I feel the above methods are practical, and most of them can be implemented either by individuals, communities or municipalities in the short term, without significantly affecting our current way of life.
How did we live before plastics were invented?
It was not long back that a person asked me at a conference: How did we live before plastics? Or perhaps the person meant “How could we have lived before plastics?”.
Either way, I liked the question.
One, because it is a question that few people actually think of. Two, because it is such a challenging question to answer!
Surely, humans lived on this planet before plastics were invented? They ought to have – because the first synthetic plastics came to market only around 1910. The first ever man-made plastic (from cellulose) was invented only in the 1860s. Humans have been around for tens of thousands of years technically, the species homo sapiens has been around for at least 200,000 years.
OK, I have made my point – we have been around for far longer than have been plastics. How did we live without them? Understanding this aspect will perhaps give us insights on how we could live with less plastics in future too?
Before I go on, I should make this distinction: This post is not about all plastics. For instance, it is not about engineering plastics that we find in our cars and computers – these plastics serve a different purpose, and result far less, if any, pollution in our land and oceans.
Specifically, the question I am posing is: How did we live without using the disposable plastic items that we today use in almost all walks of life?
Now, let me put on my thinking cap and try out my best answer.
How indeed did we live before plastics were invented?
We Used Alternatives
We used stuff that just satisfied our need instead of catering to our greed. Interestingly, nature has provided a lot many earth-friendly materials to lead a reasonably comfortable life with these materials alone:
We Led a Different Lifestyle
Our lifestyles evolve based on the environment and constraints. If we had no plastics, we led a lifestyle that simply did not require plastics!
What I have provided above is only a sampling, but I guess if you think along these lines, you will be able to come up with a lot many more examples of how humans lived without in the pre-plastic era!
Of course, without plastic we could not do a whole lot of things more comfortably (carrying water in metal containers would have been a lot heavier for instance), but let’s just say that we just about managed to lead a decent, civilized life without plastics.
The bigger question of course is – Will we be able to live a life anymore without plastics?
What are your thoughts?
By the way, in my village, even today, folks live with very little plastic. A good amount of stuff gets packaged in paper; you will find hardly any plastic water bottles – water is stored and served mostly in metal containers. But then, their lifestyles are different – very different – from those of the urban folks.
Whether the lifestyles of these rural folk are better than those of the urban creatures like us is however a question whose answer really depends on who it is asked to!
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