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When I was a boy, we pretty much didn't have plastics.

I do remember celluloid, often used within a fabric item to stiffen it or keep it flat in shape. I think Henry Ford had also put out a gearshift knob that would be classified as a plastic, although it was very hard, like colored glass. Today, plastics are everywhere. So many things are made of plastic or wrapped in plastic. Milk comes in plastic jugs, syrup comes in plastic bottles, Coca Cola is in plastic bottles (if not in aluminum cans), even peanut butter comes in a plastic jar. Those things used to be packaged in glass.

Meats and butter which used to come wrapped in strong paper or waxed paper, now come in plastic wrappers or plastic containers. Hardware items that used to be sold loose often now come wrapped in plastic. Even mop buckets are plastic, and brooms are plastic (thankfully one can still buy straw brooms and some of them still have wooden handles). I hardly ever see a metal dust pan any more; all that I see in the stores are plastic. I did have a good metal dust pan for my garage, but it disappeared somehow.

It may be coming through that I don't like plastics.

OK, I don't like plastics, at least for many of the applications we are faced with in our throw-away world. I think milk in a glass jug is much better than milk in plastic or coated paper, and Coca Cola in a traditional glass bottle is much finer than the cola which comes in plastic. I suppose that plastics have made a positive contribution to medical progress, and plastics often allow products to be made from renewable resources. But, as I understand it, many plastics are made from petroleum, which is basically not renewable, rather than something like soybeans, which we can grow plentifully in Arkansas.

I have long embraced the recycling projects that have been advanced in many communities over the past 30 years or so. I am quite proud of our Pea Ridge Recycling Center. I initially was afraid it might get too messy, and some people do abuse it by putting in stuff that doesn't belong, or by allowing stuff to fly away loose. But, all in all, it seems to go very well and continues to grow. The system allows us to recycle some of the plastics, such as water bottles, coke bottles, milk jugs, and detergent bottles, along with our steel cans, glass jars, aluminum cans and newspapers and magazines. I am always somewhat pleased when my home trash only amounts to one bag to put out to the curb for the trash haulers.

I am discontent, though, that so much of my trash that has to go in the landfills is plastic. We have so much film plastic, which so far as I know, is not recycled. We also have so much Styrofoam, for which there seems to be no practicable and affordable method of recycling. We used to call a trash can in the house our waste paper can. No more. I have almost no waste paper that can't be recycled, but I have all kinds of plastic wrappers for which I know of no recycling solution. I wish we could come to a time when we won't have so much plastic to get rid of. I don't think we advanced our civilization when we went from brown paper grocery bags to these infernal plastic grocery bags.

In some ways, our times seem to be bent on eliminating paper. Newspapers are getting smaller, struggling to compete with online communications. Banks are trying to eliminate paper statements in favor of emailed statements. Some schools are neglecting cursive writing skills because they are considered outmoded, and letters supposedly don't need to be written on paper any more. I'm still thinking to the contrary.

Paper is a sign of an advanced and advancing civilization. Newspapers are a sign of the public's desire for high quality journalism. Milk and orange juice in paper containers is better than the same products in plastic. Paper is renewable. We need more trees, and we can grow more trees. Trees make the world more beautiful. Trees clean the air and make it healthier to breathe. Let's have more trees.

I noted a cartoon in the newspaper the other day in which a housing development was to be built under the name Happy Forrest Sub-division. They began by cutting down all the trees. Let's have more trees, let's make more paper. Let's print stuff on paper. Let's make good paper cups. Let's make fewer Styrofoam cups.


Editor's note: Jerry Nichols, a native of Pea Ridge, is a retired Methodist minister and on the board of the Pea Ridge Historical Society. The views expressed are the author's. He can be contacted by email at, or call 621-1621.

Editorial on 05/09/2018

Print Headline: What to do with all that plastic?

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