We are drowning. Drowning in waste – and the culprits are us humans and our tardy disposal of plastic. Plastic waste is everywhere. Step outside your front door and it will be only minutes before you see plastic waste by the roadside. Overflowing dumpsters spill quantities; careless drivers throw bags of trash from moving vehicles and miss, and then the wind carries loose plastic bags, Styrofoam, paper plates, food containers, etc., eventually to reach our coasts and into the sea. Now sea life is being threatened – turtles are choking on six-pack rings, fish are eating plastic bags mistaking them for jellyfish, dead whales have been found with intestines blocked by plastic, and hundreds of species of fish and sea birds are killed from ingesting the same stuff. It has become a pandemic. And since plastic never biodegrades but simply turns into micro plastic granules, it is getting into our own food. There it is: we reap what we sow.
Charlie likes the phrase: we have only solutions, not problems. First, there’s a need for regulations, serious fines to be administered for littering, and follow up enforcement. A serious effort at recycling is needed with separate bins for food waste, glass, plastic, and paper. It works in big countries – it has to work in small countries too – dedicated volunteers are already at work. Retailers and restaurants have begun to hear the siren call and some initiatives have begun but much more needs to be done.
Nearly all plastic can be replaced by alternative nature-friendly products. Even six-pack rings are now being produced from edible alternatives. Customers at large retail stores and supermarkets can effect big changes by refusing plastic bags and demanding paper ones. Customers: take your own biodegradable shopping bags.
Plastics skyrocketed to popular use in the ’60s, but as so often happens there was no vision. Disposability was not even considered. The marvelous invention was hailed as stupendous – the stuff didn’t rot, rust, corrode, degrade – ‘It will last forever’. Huge cheers! Household items, gadgets, storage containers all sprouted up like weeds. Yachts started to be manufactured from it, airplanes, cars even – people made fortunes.
Now, plastic pollution has inundated our world – even space is littered with plastic debris. Our marine life is dying and mankind is facing a catastrophe.
Solution: It involves a robot. According to experts we may soon be ruled by robots. There are millions of them and they can do almost anything.
The challenge: To develop a robot that thrives on the consumption of plastic. We won’t be stingy; second helpings will be available.
The Award: A special prize of a billion Yankee dollars and a lifetime achievement accolade will be given to the inventor who comes up with a super robot – a never ending plastic-devouring robot whose byproduct is milk chocolate!
Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.