Plastic seals food, sterile medical implements, medicine, beverages, etc… it’s seems like plastic is used as a way to seal things safely. Post pandemic rising, I see even more. My work used to be have plastic utensils in the cafeteria, for example, an already wasteful thing. Now, post-2020, every fork, knife, and spoon is individually wrapped in a plastic wrapper. I feel like the more my desire to escape plastic intensifies, the more plastic I see all around me everywhere.

How can we get away from plastic as a safety layer?

  • KISSmyOS@lemmy.world
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    7 months ago

    We don’t have to get rid of plastics.
    Get rid of cars (which emit the most micro-plastics), fishing nets (which cause the most plastic pollution in the ocean), plastics in clothing and packaging where it isn’t needed.
    Then use bio-degradable plastics for whatever’s left. And single use plastics only for the tiny reminder of use cases where it’s needed, like medicine.

        • IndefiniteBen@leminal.space
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          7 months ago

          The best way to get people out of cars is to give them good alternatives, so I think you need to start by improving infrastructure and public transport.

          • LazaroFilm@lemmy.world
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            7 months ago

            Yep. The big issue is that the US landscape was designed for cars from the get go va Europe where cars were an afterthought. You don’t get rid of cars by making them forbidden or too expensive you get rid of them by making useless or less useful than alternative options a.

            • FireRetardant@lemmy.world
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              7 months ago

              Some US cities came after the car, but anything on the eastern side existed well before cars. Those cities had walkable neighbourhoods, dense downtowns and public transit. A lot of that was bulldozed to make the roads wider and provide parking for the car. North American cities were not built for the car, they were bulldozed for it.

            • bionicjoey@lemmy.ca
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              7 months ago

              American cities were designed before cars as well. The difference is that the car and fossil fuel industries lobbied for cities to be completely redesigned around cars in the 50s and 60s. And governments all across the US bulldozed their own cities to do it.

      • FrankTheHealer@lemmy.world
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        7 months ago

        Getting rid of Internal combustion engined cars more reasonable. EVs aren’t perfect, but they are much better than ICE cars as far as pollution goes.

          • BlanketsWithSmallpox@lemmy.world
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            7 months ago

            Then instead of roads let use tires made of metal and put them on some kind of road that also has metal. Let’s make it electric too…

            • Semperverus@lemmy.world
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              7 months ago

              Maybe we could connect many cars together on this system, and make it so the front or the back car is a special one thats more powerful and pulls the other cars behind or pushes the ones in front of it that carries all the passengers. For convenience, we could make nice loading and unloading areas.

        • Quetzalcutlass@lemmy.world
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          7 months ago

          Right, but we’re talking about microplastics here. Those mainly come from tires and braking systems, so the switch won’t help this specific problem.

          • Hawke@lemmy.world
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            7 months ago

            Serious question, do brakes emit any plastic particles? I was under the impression they were mostly ceramic these days (or asbestos way back when)

            • Quetzalcutlass@lemmy.world
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              7 months ago

              An important source of plastics is road traffic emissions. Kole et al. reported global average emissions of tyre wear particles (TWPs) of 0.81 kg year−1 per capita, about 6.1 million tonnes (~1.8% of total plastic production). Emissions of brake wear particles (BWPs) add another 0.5 million tonnes. TWPs and BWPs are produced via mechanical abrasion and corrosion.

              […]

              Most car braking systems consist of a disc or drum with either a pair of shoes or pads mounted in callipers. Brake linings consist of binders, fibres, fillers, frictional additives or lubricants and abrasives. Thus, BWPs are a complicated mixture of metal and plastic. BWP emissions depend on the bulk friction material on the frequency and severity of braking speed, weight, condition and maintenance of the automobile and the environmental conditions.

              From this article.

      • hglman@lemmy.ml
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        7 months ago

        Wait till energy costs 10x in the next decade. Car use will go to nothing real quick.

    • Duamerthrax@lemmy.world
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      7 months ago

      I don’t trust biodegradable plastics anymore. The in between stage of biodegration is micro plaltics. This may be an issue even if it’s from organic sources.

    • Zess@lemmy.world
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      7 months ago

      Lmao. Just use biodegradable plastics! So easy! You know jack shit about plastics my guy.

  • PonyOfWar@pawb.social
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    7 months ago

    We don’t need to ban every single bit of plastic. It’s fine to keep it where it’s absolutely necessary. Some of the examples you provided definitely aren’t necessary though, like individually wrapped cutlery (wtf) or beverages (can use glass).

    • psivchaz@reddthat.com
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      7 months ago

      So many things are unnecessarily wrapped in plastic. We use bubble wrap in situations where paper would be a perfectly fine buffer for shipping. We use plastic bags when paper and reusable bags work perfectly well.

      I get so frustrated about it not even because I’m scared of the environmental impact of all this plastic floating around, although that does suck, but because plastic is currently absolutely crucial for modern medicine. One day maybe we’ll find alternatives but until then I think a rational society would be preserving the limited life-saving miracle material for uses that aren’t as basic as “use it to take home groceries, then throw it away.”

      • pugsnroses77@sh.itjust.works
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        7 months ago

        the same issue is happening with helium. its crucial for a lot of forensic processes and scientific research but we are rapidly running out of helium. but haha balloon go up!

  • Rentlar@lemmy.ca
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    7 months ago

    Canada is in the process of “banning single-use plastics”. Although you still see them everywhere, there are many places that have switched some stuff like plastic grocery bags, plastic straws and plastic utensils to cloth grocery bags, paper straws and wooden utensils.

    • bl4ckblooc@lemmy.world
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      7 months ago

      The point OP is making still holds true in Canada though. I can’t go buy a plastic bag at my grocery store, but the store can use a ridiculous amount of wrap to sell produce, and there are tons of food products where you buy a bag full of smaller bags(and some full of even smaller bags. Pre-made salad is a big one) that I can buy easily and usually for fairly cheap.

      • Rentlar@lemmy.ca
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        7 months ago

        You’re absolutely correct. We’re not close to eradicating it despite the strong wording of “single use plastic ban” but we are taking baby steps.

  • bacondragonoverlord@feddit.de
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    7 months ago

    Well for one: most of the things listed already have a solution:

    Food? Glassware and Metal containers. Or Even reusable single type plastic containers, like a tupperware.

    Sterile medical supplies already are packed in a paper bag. The ones that are in plastic actually aren’t.

    Medicine can also be packed into glass and metal containers.

    Beverages can be put in cans or Reusable Glass bottles or you simply drink tap water. (I know in some countries that’s not safe but it should be)

    And honestly your cafeteria is the most ridiculous example. Get a dishwasher and use real cutlery. Or bring your own cutlery from home. (Is it actually a cafeteria or just a glorified break room?)

    • rbesfe@lemmy.ca
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      7 months ago

      Sterile medical supplies already are packed in a paper bag. The ones that are in plastic actually aren’t.

      Uh… What? Sterile medical instruments are absolutely packed in plastic, paper is too permeable and will lead to contamination. Even if it looks like paper it’s still lined with plastic. Have you ever worked in a medical setting before?

    • knightly@pawb.social
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      7 months ago

      My only note here is that canned beverages have a layer of non-recyclable plastic on the inside to prevent chemical interactions between the contents and the metal. Glass bottles are fine though as (aside from plastic labels) they’re fully recyclable.

    • shalafi@lemmy.world
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      7 months ago

      I loathe plastic waste, but here’s a conundrum I read about.

      Elementary school kids learned about environmentalism, wanted to do better. They got the school to dump plastic utensils and plates in favor of steel. No brainer, right?

      Turns out the energy cost for making the steel meant they would have to wash those items 1,000+ times to make up for the plastic energy production. Still, no brainer, right?

      Then they added in the energy costs for washing those items 1,000+ times. Not remotely worth doing. (Factor in loss, it’s even worse.)

      We got ourselves in a hella mess. Getting off plastic is going to mean cheap, clean and abundant energy. I mean shitloads of power. I’m all in for nuclear, at least as a stopgap.

      • Zak@lemmy.world
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        7 months ago

        The primary concern with single-use plastics is not energy consumption but plastic waste. That, of course raises the question of how to weigh one kind of environmental harm against another, and I do not have a good answer.

        My instinct here is that not generating so much trash is the energy use in this case, but I can’t prove that.

      • bacondragonoverlord@feddit.de
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        7 months ago

        It’s a balancing act for sure. You have to understand what’s good for the climate isnt necessarily good for the environment. However I believe we have to understand that cleaning up the plastic in the world is imho harder than recapturing co2 since you can’t just build a big machine wherever you want and it does it’s job. Plastic you have to hunt down manually, and good luck doing that for micro plastics

        But I don’t think your example works as well as eg plastic Vs glas bottles. Your energy dilemma can be solved simply by having photovoltaic panels and/or hooking the dishwasher up to a renewably generated hot water supply.

        Also even in your calculations which I assume are not optimised 2000+ wash cycles is only like 6 years of use. And I still think that’s a no brainer.

    • littlecolt@lemm.eeOP
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      7 months ago

      Glorified break room with a shop area, convenience store food/snacks. Sometimes catering comes in from places but otherwise, yep, big break room. I never use their awful cutlery. I’ve been known to purchase pizza rolls because yum. And hey, those come.in a totally cardboard container lol

      • silly goose meekah@lemmy.world
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        7 months ago

        Man, I spent a short while in the states and what I miss most is Pizza rolls and the quesarito from Taco Bell. Ridiculously large milkshakes from sonics drive thru are probably also up there

        • littlecolt@lemm.eeOP
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          7 months ago

          Bad news, quesarito is no more. The closest we have now is the grilled cheese burrito which is basically a burrito with cheese grilled onto the outside.

    • dingus@lemmy.world
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      7 months ago

      Tangentially related, I work in a medical laboratory, and the amount of daily trash we generate (not talking plastic specifically) is quite frankly horrifying. But there isn’t a good solution for my field.

  • kaffiene@lemmy.world
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    7 months ago

    Start with the easy wins and replace the others as options come available. We don’t have to fix everything at once.

  • bartolomeo@suppo.fi
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    7 months ago

    One way is to keep the plastic but make it out of something renewable instead of out of petroleum products. It can have the same short term properties but eventually disintigrate instead of turning into microplastics or releasing harmful particles when burned.

    • datelmd5sum@lemmy.world
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      7 months ago

      What does the source of the monomer have to do with disintegration, microplastics and harmfulness when burned? PE is the most commonly used plastic in the world. It’s made out of ethylene, which is about as simple as a molecule can be. Nothing prevents you making renewable PE, except it’s cheaper to make from fossil sources.

        • Leate_Wonceslace@lemmy.dbzer0.com
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          7 months ago

          Using renewable resources to make plastic does not by itself solve that problem; you need the resulting material to be substantially different from the original.

    • 0x4E4F@sh.itjust.works
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      7 months ago

      The solution is not perfect though…

      Life cycle analysis studies show that some bioplastics can be made with a lower carbon footprint than their fossil counterparts, for example when biomass is used as raw material and also for energy production. However, other bioplastics’ processes are less efficient and result in a higher carbon footprint than fossil plastics.

      • PupBiru@kbin.social
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        7 months ago

        the plastic problem is separate from the carbon problem though… we don’t ban plastics because we’re concerned about climate change; we ban them because we are worried that microplastics are causing significant health effects to both humans and most other animals

        • 0x4E4F@sh.itjust.works
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          7 months ago

          Still, there is that other thing to worry about as well. The eco system is a system, doesn’t depend on one thing only.

          • gregorum@lemm.ee
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            7 months ago

            Likewise, we will always have products and processes which have some carbon footprint. The hope is that we have enough others that don’t or are carbon negative that the net effect is one of balance.

          • PupBiru@kbin.social
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            7 months ago

            of course, but they are complex problems and you shouldn’t poo poo a potential mitigation to 1 because it negatively impacts another

            the solutions to complex problems shouldn’t require being solutions to every complex problem

  • RBWells@lemmy.world
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    7 months ago

    I don’t think individual shrink wrapping of utensils is a necessary use, every time I pull that thin plastic off something I think we are all going to hell.

    But as others have noted, we don’t need to eliminate all use, we need to radically reduce use and find a technology to deal with the remaining amount.

  • Chobbes@lemmy.world
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    7 months ago

    I’m probably going to hell for saying this, but… I’m not that worried about plastic pollution? Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to minimize single use items and plastic ending up places it shouldn’t, but if it’s the best option for food / medical safety or cheaply producing something with a lower carbon footprint… we should probably just use it without too much guilt? The world is almost certainly better because of plastic in my opinion.

  • NeoNachtwaechter@lemmy.world
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    7 months ago

    How can we get away from plastic as a safety layer?

    We don’t need to get away totally.

    It will be good enough if we avoid most of it.

  • time_lord@lemmy.world
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    7 months ago

    You can buy bamboo utensils individually wrapped in wax and brown paper. For most one time use items we already have a non-plastic alternative, it’s just less convenient.