The fast Consumption
Plastic: fast Consumption
Certain products made from plastic have a particularly high garbage potential. Above all packaging that very soon ends up in the garbage bin. And, as evaluations of international garbage cleanup campaigns have shown, plastic debris from the areas of packaging and foodstuffs often enters the seas as flotsam. Among the ten most common kinds of flotsam are plastic bottles (11%), plastic bags (10%), food packaging (9%), beakers, plates and cutlery (5%).
The Plastic Bags
The plastic bag made of polyethylene or polypropylene which was first introduced in the 1960s is regarded as the symbol of the consumer society. Throughout the world 600 thousand million plastic bags are produced every year, a European citizen uses about 500 plastic bags annually. Generally they are used only once, which contrasts strongly with their long lifespan. Thin plastic bags in particular represent a serious ecological problem. They are easily tossed by the wind and have turned many stretches of land into landscapes of plastic. Or they land in rivers and streams and ultimately in the sea. In a number of countries such as France, India or China plastic bags, either all kinds or just the light ones, are now banned. As well as this approach, strategies to reduce their numbers by imposing taxes and charges, recycling or using bioplastics are being tested. More sustainable alternatives include paper bags, cloth bags, shopping baskets or plastic bags that are used for a longer period.
, The Majestic Plastic Bag – A Mockumentary, 2010
Around one third of the plastic produced worldwide is used for packaging. This is justified above all by its usefulness in conserving goods and reducing danger of breakage and by the transparency and the low weight of plastic packaging, which on average makes up only a small percentage of the product weight. This means savings in transportation costs and the CO2 balance, especially over longer distances. Nevertheless, there is a clear imbalance between the long life of product packaging, which can be up to several hundred years, and the short life of the product.
This is determined by the supermarket’s self-service principle which demands that as many goods as possible should be prepackaged. In defending the use of plastic the food retail trade argues that from its viewpoint the plastic has a more favorable ecological balance than other materials, but does every piece of fruit or vegetable, cheese or sausage really need its own plastic wrapping?
The «design of the mobile culture of eating» is a visible expression of present-day society which always seems to be on the way to somewhere and is entirely «dominated by efficiency and practicality» (Take away, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, 2006). Led by the ubiquitous, handy-sized PET bottle and packaging for food eaten on the go, the plastic industry seems to have found here an inexhaustible market, which unfortunately also makes a decisive contribution to littering. After lengthier observation we venture to formulate a hypothesis: the more ready-made the meal, the more elaborate the packaging.
Many retailers and also fast food chains are making an effort to find more environmentally friendly alternatives, but there is also much that can be done at the individual level: returnable or refillable bottles made from ecologically harmless materials, lunch boxes with home-made meals rather than fast food, picnics or parties using environmentally friendly materials and glasses instead of plastic cups.