The Christian Bible says Prophet Isaiah urged the people to
“beat their swords into plowshares” and learn war no more (700s BC).
In 2017 the Chinese Government ended the decades-long reliance of the USA on their country as the world’s defacto recycler by passing a new law effectively banning it, called “Operation National Sword.”
This action by the Chinese government shocked the US’s recyclers who were so reliant on out-of-country recycling that suddenly the over 70% of the county’s recycling that had up till then been exported now had to remain on our own soil, and we had never bothered to build the infrastructure to recycle it ourselves.
Shipping our recyclables to China and other Asian countries had been so alluring that shipping containers by the thousand had been stuffed full, trucked to US ports and loaded on ships bound for these counties, at the cost of $1,000s per container – and there was still some meat-on-the-bone for the receiving entrepeneurs who processed the plastics into re-usable forms. However, it is very important to note that an unknown quantity of this material was then dumped in Asian ‘landfills’ – legal or not.
In my mind this situation is analogous to the Middle Ages’ gradual acceptance that sewage had to be dealt with, as illness, death, and the daily stenches associated with it quite literally and horrifically plagued their daily lives.
The Pacific Garbage Patch and the more Instagram-able “Plastic vs Turtles et al” loom large as recycling tropes – yet modern medicine is now finding microplastics in all major organs of our bodies and just like our medieval forebears with their battle with sewage, we know not what effect it is having on us.
Lets look forward now, and not backwards. Let us tackle the realities of the world we live in and find solutions to our necessary reliance on plastics.
The trope of the 2020’s ‘It is what it is’ has birthed our volunteer-based 501c3 non-profit company Plastic Beach, where we are tackling these real-world recycling issues pragmatically, and through our local communities and strategic partnerships with groundbreaking innovators such as TREX, whom we will supply with baled plastic sheet material which they process and incorporate into their innovative building materials.
The realities of sewage forced communities and states to understand that shit ain’t profitable, but ignoring it was so disastrous that now we all expect and understand that we need to pay to get it out of our home and safely treated.
Let’s tackle our plastics issue like the crappy issue it is — just like the lovely food that precedes, the plastic-wrapped life we enjoy now generates a mess that needs to be reckoned with! China’s Operation Sword is a teachable moment, and PlasticBeach shall put our head down and “plow through the line” just like SpaceX’s mantra.