I have been an anti-plastic activist since I was 5 years old.
I started my protest at Grandma Ida’s, in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. One holiday when I was visiting, I ran over to the big bowl of fruit on the table. I was excited to have a juicy red apple, a sweet pear or big yellow banana. I picked one up and to my surprise….it was fake! I was upset. I asked Grandma Ida, “Why do you have plastic fruit?”
My grandma smiled proudly. “It looks pretty, and never goes bad. It lasts forever!” This made absolutely no sense to a hungry child. But to her, it was a magical solution to a household problem.
Over in Bayside Queens, we would visit Aunt Rose. We had to sit on her horrible plastic couch slipcovers, our sweaty legs stuck in place. I asked Aunt Rose, “why do you have the couch covered in plastic?” And Aunt Rose cooed proudly, “The covers keep my couch clean, forever!”
Hey, to me, those slipcovers put the ick in plastic. But to Aunt Rose…it was a magical solution to a sticky problem.
In 1969, I was a full-fledged hippie when I saw the movie “The Graduate.” When the slimy businessman gave Dustin Hoffman advice for his future, he said, “I have one word for you: PLASTICS.” We all roared with laughter. YUCK! What a disgusting, sell-out idea, to go into plastics!! Who would do that??
It turns out: all of us! The whole world went into plastics! In a big way.
Plastic was better for everything! I recall a humorous 1978 Pepsi commercial, in which a busy mom drives home, and when she hits a pothole, her Pepsi bottles bounce around in the back of her station wagon and don’t break! WOO HOO! Unbreakable plastic! A magical solution to life’s problems.
But now….unbreakable, everlasting plastic IS the problem.
We have plastic bottles from Africa blowing up onto the shores of North Carolina during hurricane Flo. We’ve got the Great Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean, a world of floating plastic garbage twice the size of the state of Texas.
We’ve got wildlife and sea life choking on our freaking little problem-solvers. It’s in our food, our salt, our cells.
Though we have “throw-away” plates, cups, containers, bags, and contact lenses, there is no “away!”It’s all still here! Coming to a shoreline near you.
So where are the magical solutions?
In Europe, where they put a ban on plastic bags, there has been a 30% drop in plastic pollution in the waters surrounding Norway, Germany, UK, northern France and Ireland. Guess what, America? Plastic pollution legislation really works!
Here’s a small but effective idea. Plastic that cleansthe ocean! An environmental group called 4Oceangoes out to sea every day, pulls in plastic garbage, and melts it into beads for bracelets. Every bracelet is a pound pulled from the ocean. Yes, it’s just a drop in the ocean…(or, out of the ocean, in this case)…but it’s an idea that’s working.
I’ve even got pants made with a fabric made from recycled plastic bottles woven with cotton fibers. There are 14.5 plastic bottles each pair, to be exact. And they’re soft and cozy!
Oh, we need WAY MORE big ideas. We need strong leadership! Ooops, nationally, that’s in short supply. But not in Great Barrington, Massachusetts! We lead the way with our successful ban on plastic bags, and now, a ban on single use plastic water bottles.
Solutions, solutions, solutions.
I drink to great solutions!
And, by the way…remember Grandma Ida and Aunt Rose? They are long gone, but they got what they wished for.
That fruit has never rotted, and those plastic slipovers were just spotted arriving on the shores of New Zealand.
Susan Spiegel Solovay is best known for writing very short pieces, otherwise known as ads. Print ads, tv commercials, jingles. Meaningful stuff. In 1984, she shot to fame – or shame – by penning “The Best Part of Waking Up is Folger’s in Your Cup.” And then came “Sure/Unsure.” To top it off, she has retired and is enjoying an encore career in the beautiful Berkshire mountains, where her skill with words mostly puts people to sleep, as she is now a world-class hypnotist and life coach. You can find out what the heck that means at https://www.hypnocoachny.com.