Recycling is a fraud, a sham, a scam

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Recycling is a fraud, a sham, a scamRecycling is a fraud, a sham, a scam, perpetrated by big business on the citizens and municipalities to make us all feel good about single use packaging. It won't save the planet.

We blame ourselves, or consumers are getting blamed, that's you and me, by government, for not recycling more plastics, and yet our efforts are like “hammering a nail to halt a falling skyscraper.” It is time we got to the root of the problem.

“People need to get better at recycling” is a comment we often hear as soon as the topic of (plastic) waste comes up. It is a misleading assumption, however, to think that tossing more items in the recycling bin and fewer in the trash can make that much of a difference in dealing with the catastrophic level of plastic contamination that our planet currently faces. In fact, it is actually pretty much pointless. And the same goes for other single-use, or perceived single-use, items of packaging, even for glass jars. Aside from the fact that the latter can be reused in so many ways and do not have to end up as recyclables.

We need to rethink the way that we deal with trash because individual consumer cannot solve this problem as individual consumers are not the problem. We have taken it on as our problem because of some very astute, corporate-driven psychological misdirection in the form of campaigns like Keep America Beautiful and other such “initiatives”, created by industry.

Keep America Beautiful, Keep Our Country Tidy, Don't Be A Litterbug, and others were all, in one way or another created, brought to life or sponsored, by industry in an attempt to place the problem of litter, waste and trash on the shoulders of the consumer rather than keeping it on their own and dealing with it.

Keep America Beautiful was founded by major beverage companies and tobacco giant Philip Morris in the 1950s as a way to encourage environmental stewardship in the public. Later it joined forces with the Ad Council, at which point, "one of their first and most lasting impacts was bringing 'litterbug' into the American lexicon." This was followed by the 'Crying Indian' public service announcement and the more recent 'I Want To Be Recycled' campaign.

We can safely assume that campaigns of a similar nature in other countries were and are sponsored by the same entities, be it the programs like “Keep Our Country Beautiful” (UK), ot others of a similar nature.

While these PSAs appear admirable, they are little more than corporate greenwashing. For decades Keep America Beautiful has actively campaigned against beverage laws that would mandate refillable containers and bottle deposits. Why? Because these would hurt the profits of the companies that founded and support Keep America Beautiful. Meanwhile, the organization has been tremendously successful at transferring the blame for plastic pollution onto consumers, rather than forcing the industry to shoulder responsibility.

The greatest success of Keep America Beautiful has been to shift the onus of environmental responsibility onto the public while simultaneously becoming a trusted name in the environmental movement. This psychological misdirect has built public support for a legal framework that punishes individual litterers with hefty fines or jail time, while imposing almost no responsibility on plastic manufacturers for the numerous environmental, economic and health hazards imposed by their products.

The burden, whether as regards to plastics or other waste, was placed on the should of the consumer, and the same, today, happens also as regards to food waste. The majority of food that is wasted has never even made it to the consumer.

If we are serious about tackling plastic pollution, then corporations' actions are where we should start. They are the real litterbugs in this situation. The focus should be on the source of the plastic, not its near-impossible disposal.

This also goes for any packaging and also for food waste. It needs to start at the source and not at the consumer. When it comes to food waste, as mentioned already, the majority of waste occurs before it ever gets to the shop let alone on the consumer side. When the market buyers refuse vegetables and fruit because it does not fit certain criteria and the farmer is ordered to destroy the crop. That is where the waste starts.

With plastic and packaging it starts at the manufacturers of products who use too much packaging.

But, it would appear that we, the consumers, allowed ourselves to accept individual responsibility for a problem we have little control over. In fact, a problem over which we have almost not control.

I know we all want to feel that we can do something to make a difference and, indeed, we can, but it starts well before we think “recycling”, or at least it should. We can refuse, where possible, to buy things in plastic bottles – though in certain cases it gets more and more difficult. We can refuse to buy bottled water altogether for in most places the tap water is at least as good as to water in those bottles – which often is, by the way, from municipal sources, in other words, it is tap water, just bottled tap water.

I am not saying don't separate your recyclables and put them out for the municipalities to collect, only that that, in itself, is not going to make much of a difference, especially not considering that much of what you are going to put out ends up in landfill again because either the price that can be achieved for the recyclables is too low to make dealing with them viable or, as with China refusing to take the West's garbage, many countries do not know what to do with the stuff. Processing it at home, obviously, wouldn't do – in the eyes of the powers-that-be – as at home there are higher environmental protection standards and thus it would cost a lot of money to do so. So, if they can't dump it on third (world) countries they just dump it in holes in the ground.

We need to start well before recycling but often we have little to no control over that department other than buying products elsewhere where there is no over-packaging but, alas, some cannot afford to do that. Nor is the suggestion to leave all the packaging at the checkout a brilliant idea because for one it often is not possible and also, in some cases, should you have to return anything the packaging, to some extent, such as a box in which some item came, has to go back as well with the item to be returned.

So where does that leave us, as the consumer? It leaves us as the reuse, repurpose, upcycle and such stage. True, you can't do that with everything and how many glass jars (and other items) can you really reuse. Fair enough, I seem to be able to make use of an awful lot of glass jars for storage purposes but not everyone can. I also tend to make things from plastic milk jugs and such for the garden and for other uses. In addition to that many of those things could even be upcyled by craftspeople for sale, but, alas, few seem to think along those lines.

Where it all has to start, however, is with industry and also with design (do you hear me #designers). Designers come in to design packaging either to be compostable, or with a second use automatically obvious. This has been done, and is still been done, with mustard, and similar glass “jars” and containers, such as in France where they have the automatic reuse potential as drinking glasses, such as the ones used commonly for vin de pays in the homes, and even bars.

This should also be possible with other packaging, including plastic packaging, thus making us think as to whether we want to throw the item away in the first place or whether we do not, maybe, have a personal use for it. It can be done because it has been done before. We just need to remember, dearest designers, and adapt some of the things from the past when it was done to the present. Not rocket science but then you have studied design, not rocket science.

For us as consumers, yes, we can do our bit but the recycling bin, please remember, should always be the last consideration.

© 2018

Nettle fiber, nettle cloth

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

nettleIn ancient times stinging nettle was used to make fiber and cloth similar to canvas and linen. In fact all three processes involve retting.

It would appear that, while many talk about bringing hemp back into cultivation, nettles are not looked at as to whether they might have the same properties.

The good thing would be that one wouldn’t have to cultivate nettles; they just grow, and that almost everywhere and anywhere without any input from us. Not even the need to water them.

Already, or maybe just because, in ancient times, including in Britain, stinging nettles were used to make fiber and cloth, including clothes. But then came hemp and flax (or the other way round) and nettle fell out of favor. But why? It is readily available, does not need sowing or planting, looks after itself, basically, all by itself.

The only thing I can think of, besides the fact that nettles are not as easy to handle, due to their stings, is that, probably, nettles cannot be processed mechanically, as can hemp and flax. But that is only a guess by me. Also, and that may be more the reason, nettles do not grow in neat rows on field but more in the wild, on marginal land, and more often on land that has had some human disturbance.

We, as gardeners, groundsmen and farmers continuously wage a battle against nettles. Should we not rather, instead, acknowledge their potential and make use of them, including for the production of fiber and cloth? I think we should. Instead of fighting a losing battle against the nettles we should make use of them. Aside from providing fiber the leaves of the stinging nettle are also edible and also make a great herbal tea.

Hemp, even the so-called commercial hemp, needs certain favorable growing conditions and watering and while it maybe, though who knows, superior to nettles they, the nettles, will grow and will grow tall, without any input by us. They need no watering and no other care. They just grow and don't they just grow, and that (almost) everywhere. And, most importantly, nettles have been used for fiber and cloth before in the very old days.

Considering this would it not be an idea whose time has come to actually try and use this resource. I am sure that with today's technology it could be worked commercially to a much larger extent than ever before.

© 2018