Written by guest author JoeAnn Hart. Originally posted on her blog Float
It’s so hopeless,” a young friend said, tossing a plastic water bottle in the trash. “I don’t believe in recycling.”
“Don’t believe?” I said, reaching into the garbage. “I didn’t know it was a religion.”
“It’s a faith. A faith that you’re doing the right thing. A feel-good gesture that masks a larger problem.”
As I dropped the bottle into the recycling receptacle, I felt that familiar spike of serotonin from having done my bit for the environment, and I knew she was right. Self-satisfaction with our little actions can keep us from taking up the larger, more difficult, actions. Recycling is grossly inefficient. Every year, Americans throw away three-hundred pounds of plastic per person, only ten percent of which gets recycled, and poorly recycled at that. Not only is it down-cycled into something like decking material, it uses an inordinate amount of energy in the process, as we truck empty water bottles all over the country. All this so we can re-use a toxic material? When we die, our bodies will decompose into a bit of carbon and methane. Plastic never disappears. It breaks down into smaller bits of polymer, releasing pseudo-estrogens and other hazardous chemicals in the process, until it is the size of a single molecule. This is where the waste stream meets the food chain. The molecules enter the water table under the landfills where they make their way to the sea, to be devoured by fish fooled into thinking it’s plankton. Then we eat the fish.
Cover Artist Karen Ristuben