Monday, November 19, 2007

Plastisaurus vs Styrodon

What is a Plastisaurus?
It’s a way to humorously dramatize the impact of plastics in the environment, and educate the public how to identify and demand recyclable plastics and recycling, and why it’s important.

Picture a crowded supermarket parking lot on a Saturday afternoon.
A pickup truck stops in front of the store, and a worker in a sanitation-looking jumpsuit shovels two big heaps of plastic onto the pavement, jumps off after them, and the truck drives away.

The piles begin to move and growl. Suddenly they burst upward with a roar, into two giant, trash-heap monsters— slashing, shoving, and bellowing at each other. Soon, as the volume of their roaring drops, the worker-narrator begins to speak.

The amplified narrator tells a tale of the battle between recyclable and non-recyclable plastics.
The largely-ignorant public is either trashing both, or recycling both. Either choice is wrong. Except for the (intentionally) almost-imperceptible number on the bottom, you can’t tell them apart. But to the planet and its creatures, there’s a huge difference…

What’s really wrong, goes the tale, is that this store, like many others, is forcing consumers to buy non-recyclable containers in the first place. (Trader Joes, incidentally, has pressured many of its suppliers to use mostly #s 1 and 2 recyclable plastics. But they don’t proclaim that, because they have a long way to go.)

Of course, the story holds for most food outlets of any kind in this region, and perhaps across the nation, although I haven’t checked yet. So the venue and impact potential is endless.

Actually, this is a highly simplified version of a complex story. Of course #s 3-6 are recyclable, but for various reasons, both economic and technical, most recycling centers won't take them. So, municipalities won't, either.

How this came about
I had triggered a family member's anger by going through her recycling bin, pulling out the many carefully-washed #6 take-out, sushi, and produce containers, and putting them in the trash.
She was already disgusted with her Manhattan apartment building for their half-hearted support for recycling. Now here I was, stirring that into impotent consumer rage at all the stores and vendors who sell things in ostensibly “recyclable” containers, that are, in fact, not recyclable.

In my vision, a large pile of discarded plastics transforms itself into a pair of battling monsters: an evil one risen from a simmering landfill to take over the world, the other risen from a recycling center to battle it. The battleground, of course, is the shopping center parking lot, drawing attention and heat to the major retailers who are forcing consumers to buy the most non-recyclables.

Is this plastic recyclable? Bally's YES, Fantastic Foods NO

Kudos to, of all places, Ballys Health Clubs for using #1 PETE plastic for their vitamins. Discouraged recently by how few things are #s 1, 2, or 3 (the only ones my municipality will take), I almost assumed it wasn't one of those. Happily wrong I was! Into the recycle bin it went.

Now, Fantastic World Foods-- Remember Fantastic Falafel and the other grainy, pasty vegan treats from the Health Food Store days? Well, the food's still as appetizing as Garrison Kealor's infamous Raw Bits, but now they're putting it in un-recyclable #5 containers, instead of the coated cardboard of old. Oh, what's the World (Foods) coming to?