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    Do you ever, when you use a single use plastic product, think about the implications of your action? Single use plastic products – styrofoam cups and plates, plastic eating utensils, plastic drinking bottles, plastic bags and plastic packaging – are ubiquitous. Plastic to throw away is everywhere. We love the convenience of it.

    But what is entailed in the making of the plastic? Basically all plastic is made from either crude oil or natural gas. That's energy! Given our addiction to energy in all aspects of our lifestyle, the energy that goes into the plastics we consume is relatively small, nevertheless it is significant.

    More significant is what happens to the plastic after we are done using it, after we throw it away? Well it goes either into recycling or the land fill. Since a major reason we like plastic is because it is durable, we should not be surprised that it does not bio-degrade readily. Plastic that goes to the landfill or ends up in our waterways will be there for decades, perhaps even longer. Our plastic waste should not go to the landfill, it needs to be recycled.

    To that end we have our Blue Box program. Eastman Recycling, which runs our blue box program processed enough paper, plastic, glass, aluminum and steel last year to fill 160 semi-trailers. For Eastman Recycling that's a substantial accomplishment. But what does that say about the rest of us?

    Collecting plastics in blue boxes fosters the belief that, like aluminum and glass, these will be converted into new similar objects. From one glass bottle we can make another glass bottle of similar quality, in an economic manner. However this is not the case with plastic. The best we can hope for plastics is that these will be turned into other products such as doormats, textiles, plastic lumber, etc.. These products will still end at some point in the landfill – and do NOT stem the need for more virgin petroleum product. This is NOT recycling, but down-cycling.

    Were there no alternatives to plastic for these applications, this situation would be tolerable (although we need to question whether landfilling them is fair to future generations). But there are alternatives. In most cases the plastics are convenient but not necessary. We can do our shopping with a reusable bag. The utensils we choose for eating can be washed and reused. If we need to carry water with us, we can use a stainless steel bottle.

    Our leaders at every level have a responsibility to foster a healthy environment for all of us to live in. Unfortunately too many politicians have a limited view of what that means. Earlier this year (2010) the Steinbach City Council received two letters asking it to take action to discourage the use of plastic bags in Steinbach. Council decided then, it was not their responsibility.

    So, for now at least, we are left with individual action. There are so many places where we do have a choice. So what do we chose?

Winnipeg ships most of its recycable plastic to China, according to the  CBC.

Check out Plastic Pollution Coalition This is one of their videos.

Van Jones is a leading thinker in linking Social Justice and green energy

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