The amount of waste we generate is scandalous.  We know it’s wrong, but we go along with it.  During most of 2020 my wife and I had a lot of food and other supplies delivered.  The amount of plastic (and cardboard) waste just the two of us generated was embarrassing.

My particular annoyance is with trivial, beautifully engineered items that are designed to be thrown away. Like mechanical pencils, which are cheaper to buy and toss than to refill them with leads. Or those little white-out tape dispensers (see my previous comment about those) and what I found recently; a dimmer switch.

Now the switch itself is fine; it works, it saves electricity, we can change the mood of the room.

The packaging is OK. The instructions are OK, I guess, although nobody reads them and if they are needed they are online.  The same company prints instructions for other switches on the inside of the packaging.

But that little thing on the lower left? It’s a second rocker switch and dimmer slide in almond color. The actual switch comes with a white panel clicked in place.  If I wanted almond I would discard the white and insert the almond one. It’s a great idea!

BUT it means I must throw away a functional item of plastic (with a small steel spring). Somehow it grates. It indicates that the designers, engineers and marketing people have convenience, shelf space and ultimately profit as their leading criteria.  The reduction of waste should get at least equal, if not primary, consideration.

As I said, my preoccupation is with trivial things. White-out dispensers will probably go the way of ink wells and crank handles.

But in other things we do generate a lot of waste.  Suppliers and shippers don’t help. Do paper towels and toilet rolls really need inner and outer plastic wraps?  What happened to those biodegradable packing “peanuts”?  (Actually I see they are readily available.) So why not use those instead of single use air-filled plastic? (I know the answer to that as well: Cost/Profits!)

To be fair our individual contribution pales in comparison to industrial waste. 10% of all plastic waste in the oceans is associated with fisheries (abandoned nets and such).  In some locations the percentage is over 80%. (See ‘Zombie in the Water’: New Greenpeace Report Warns of Deadly Ghost Fishing Gear)

On land agriculture produces a large volume of plastic waste. See The biggest source of plastic trash you’ve never heard of and this World Bank Document for general background. This video: McHale Orbital High Speed Round Bale Wrapper shows one example of farm plastic use. (I understand wrapping hay bales is an efficient agricultural process and do not question the quality of the equipment.)

Our meat, dairy and other food products generate plastic waste – we need to be aware as we make our choices.

Here’ s another little gem. It’s convenient. It’s inventive. It’s useful. It’s waste.

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