A month ago, my friend Egbert forwarded me a great essay ecological action. He was trying to persuade me (unsuccessfully) that the word ‘nature’ can be redeemed. However, essay was so good, I printed it out. One of the fundamental thesis of the essay was that ecological regeneration is inseparable from economic justice. The author points out that over the last centuries, those in the global north have emitted way more carbon than folks in the global south. His point is that folks in the Global North have a much greater carbon debt than those living lightly in other parts of the world.
And of course that goes for plastic too.
Perhaps even more so.
In fact, I would argue that as a symbol of our ecological debt and petro-capital participation, our plastic is the place to start.
The latest research shows that the per capita generation of plastic waste in North America was 10.83 kg/month in 2016 (where much of it ends up over here in South East Asia). I was born in the late 70’s so let’s use that figure with some adjustments. Let’s assume for simplicity, that during the 70’s it was 3kg (36kg a year) and the 80’s that rate was 5 kg a month (60kg a year), the 1990’s it was 8kg (96kg a year), and 2000 onwards til today it is 10kg a month (120 kg a year). Given my 44 years, that means that I have generated roughly 4188 kg of plastic over my lifetime.
Growing up my family and I did recycle. I estimate that we recycled abot 50% of our plastic. Research shows that when plastic is recycled , 91% eventually ends up in the environment. So that means 4,188kg of plastic x 91% = 3811,08 kg of plastic