Plastic Awareness Day
Susan Freinkel begins her book Plastics: A Toxic Love Story by describing an experiment: she writes down every single thing that’s made of plastic that she touches in a day, and is surprised to fill up four entire notebook pages. I thought it would be interesting to perform a version of this experiment for myself and to compile a visual record by photographing each plastic item I touched.
These are my three most remarkable findings. First, there was almost too much plastic for me to track. My photographic record, as large as it is, is actually incomplete. I overlooked a number of plastic items (the buttons on my shirt, for instance), and I’m sure I missed others. I also neglected to take photos during some especially busy times of the day, like when I was cooking dinner.
Second, I realized that so much of what goes into or onto our bodies comes out of something plastic. Food, water, milk, toothpaste, vitamins, shampoo, shaving cream, and even our dinner of grass-fed beef from the farmers’ market came out of plastic packaging. Almost every substance I consumed had been in a plastic vessel not long before it went into me.
Third, I would not have touched nearly as many plastic items if a little baby didn’t happen to live in my house. So much of the material world that my 18-month-old daughter inhabits is made of plastic. When my own parents were babies (before World War II), plastics existed but were hardly widespread, let alone ubiquitous. The trend over three generations has the upward trajectory of an Apollo rocket. What will it be like for my daughter’s grandchildren?