We Gen-Xers have lived a life full of plastic: Our shag rugs strewn with high-arch-footed dolls, Legos, bubble wrap, Tupperware containers, six-pack rings, vinyl records, cassette tapes…you name it.
“There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?” says Mr. McGuire to Benjamin in The Graduate, a movie that debuted the year many of us were just babes, 1967.
And then a few years later in 1970, after the first Earth Day and the backlash due to rising energy costs, we met the movement to make things green again. Consumer recycling took hold in our lifetimes — which is kind of weird to think about. (Although, who knew, Plato first discussed the idea in 400 B.C. “Socrates, dude, these bronze spikes would be super cute as a necklace.”)
For as long as we can remember, we’ve been battling a tug of war between man-made and earth friendly options. Paper or plastic? This nose or that one? Fake or authentic?
Here’s a little irony for you: “Plastic” means “capable of being molded or modeled,” which is why it’s called plastic surgery, but when it comes to plastic bottles there is nothing more permanent.
Yes, Mr. McGuire, plastic is our unfortunate future — the World Economic Forum warns we’ll have more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050. But it’s also the past — a past that won’t die (ever) but continues to accumulate in landfills. It represents the lengths we’ll go to preserve the past on our face, and the choices we make every day between using one reusable water bottle or adding to the 22 billion of bottles Americans throw out every year. (Side note: Staggering.)
Still, there is hope. Lots of people have ideas about how to reduce or recycle that plastic, from clothes to a life-saving schoolbag to eco-friendly construction blocks to mealworms who break down the stuff. In advance of next month’s Earth Day (April 22), we thought we’d dedicate this issue to the subject of the oil-based bane of our lifelong existence:
- Sarayu Srinivasan waxes profound on a life, recycled
- Jody Jones shows us the crooked nose that made her confident
- Nicola Prentis gets a little misguided Botox
- Whitney Warne takes on a trash-y mission
- The TueNight Crew remembers when music was a “thing” — usually a plastic one at that