Culture of convenience foe for environment

July 11, 2018

Once upon a time, men used “safety razors.” You permanently kept the razor, and installed blades when needed. When the blade became dull, you threw it away.

Safety razors still exist, along with electric razors, but many Americans now use plastic disposable razors. The EPA estimates we throw away 2 billion plastic razors per year.

Remember the fountain pen? It has some Kankakee County roots. Lewis Waterman pioneered the idea of a portable pen that carried its own ink and could be refilled. Frank Waterman, of Altorf, was his key salesman. Fountain pens are collectible now. The kids returning to school shortly will buy plastic pens in packages of a dozen — and throw them away. The EPA says we throw away 1.6 billion plastic pens per year.

And then, there are disposable diapers. Once, people used cloth diapers. They washed them out. When the babies grew up, the old diapers became dust rags. Today, disposable diapers are 95 percent of the market.

Consumer Reports estimates if you use cloth diapers, the savings per child is about $2,000 throughout a lifetime. An estimated 3.4 million tons of disposable diapers wind up in American landfills each year.

What about the plastic shopping bag? Waste Management estimates only 1 percent of them are ever recycled. The average family will use 1,500 bags per year. You see the bags everywhere — stuck in trees, rolling across streets, caught in fences.

Environmentalism is way more complex than banning just one thing. Our way of life is built on convenience. As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

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