Why Do Plastics Last For Years?
Why does plastic last so long? Although I was terrible at chemistry in high school, I can remember this factoid. Plastic is made from a chain of 8 carbon atoms. Carbon is a basic building block. If you snap 8 of them together, you can make a durable, waterproof, airtight material that lasts 1,000 years. Oh joy.
We get carbon from many sources. Oil and natural gas (methane) are easiest and supply most plastic manufacturing. Scientists also realized you could cheaply extract carbon from plants ‒ like corn ‒ for these building blocks. But it’s still just carbon. It still wants to last 1,000 years, and it does not want to breakdown in your backyard compost barrel.
The distinction is not much different from cooking with honey versus molasses. Both are sticky, loaded with calories and sweeten your food. They come from different sources but, in the end, you’ve got dessert.
Tips For Reducing Plastic (PLAs) Use:
Here’s what to look for:
The label says compostable. Technically true if your city has an industrial composting facility and you’ve been given a special collection bin. But chances are you don’t live near one nor have that special bin.
The label says Plant Plastic or Bio-Plastic. I said it above, but it bears repeating and is the most direct tip off. If it gets into the recycling bin, by the way, it contaminates the whole batch. PLAs will only break down in a reasonable amount of time under very exact circumstances: 140 degrees, closed space and with specific digestive microbes. These specifications are only found in industrial compost facilities which, in Los Angeles, we do not have access to. PLAs can’t be blended with traditionally recycled plastics (#1 -2).
If your product has a green stripe along the bottom or green sash diagonally across the side. Not a lot more to say here – just look out for the stripe/sash and say no thanks.
You know the little triangle on the bottom of plastic products with a tiny # 1-7 in the middle? It tells you what kind of plastic you have (#s 1 & 2 are recyclable). Plant plastic will say 7 or PLA
What should you do if a barista or smoothie café hands you plant plastic? You can accept it, but tell the person at the counter you’re disappointed they’re using it and you’re less likely to return. Then Jybe It so the rest of us can avoid them.
That’s how we flex our spending power!