Green Junction: A throwaway World By Julie Peller Ph.D.

The most extensive use of throwaway plastic is in packaging. I suggest that the term over-packaging often better describes this packaging. Recently, I watched a moving company load furniture wrapped in multiple layers of plastic into the moving truck, an example of over-packaging. I wondered what happened to the heavy blanket pads that protect furniture during a move. A few months ago, I made my first visit to Costco with my daughter. While the purchase of foods in bulk usually means less packaging, I noticed almost all the items were bundled with extra plastic wrap, which essentially negated one of the advantages of bulk purchases. 

How does society change course and implement sustainable ways to transport goods and reduce enormous amounts of unnecessary plastic waste? Organizations working to reduce plastic waste believe that one of the ways is to hold packaging producers accountable. A few states in the US are showing leadership and responsibly addressing the plastic waste problem. In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown recently signed the Plastic Pollution and Recycling Modernization Act. Part of the law will require packaging producers to share responsibility for the effective management of their products after use. Oregon is only the second state to establish a law to hold producers accountable. Maine is the other state. The law will also “make recycling easier for the public to use, expand access to recycling services, upgrade the facilities that sort recyclables, and create environmental benefits while reducing social and environmental harms, such as plastic pollution.” 

Plastic production continues to rise since consumers and businesses rely heavily on plastic packaging and are not challenged to be accountable or find substitutes (i.e., reusable packing blankets). As a result, additional plastic garbage will pollute the environment, affecting public health and wildlife. The law recently passed in Oregon shows that more people want leaders to find ways to minimize single-use plastics in society and hold producers accountable. Other solutions include the pursuit of more sustainable materials, more simplistic lifestyles, and technologies/products designed for a circular economy. We can all be part of the movement to greater sustainability and healthier earth by minimizing the single-use plastics in our lives.

Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work

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