Thursday, April 5, 2018

Plastics


In one of the iconic scenes from the 1967 movie The Graduate, the character played by Dustin Hoffman gets a word of advice from one of his father’s friend about his future. "Ben, I want to say one word to you. Just one word: Are you listening? Plastics, Ben. Plastics.”

There’s probably no way that author Charles Webb or screenwriters Buck Henry and Calder Willingham could have known how prescient that line was, but today, the same advice could be given to many college graduates, but with a completely different meaning. 

In 1967, the word “plastic” was understood to mean something modern, advanced, wonderful. In the 1980s the word “plastic” carried a pejorative connotation, used to describe something cheap or flimsy. 

Today, the word plastic has taken on a new meaning: a worldwide pollutant. Plastic litters our streets, our parking lots and our beaches. It collects in giant gyers in our oceans, and now has been discovered in our drinking water, including our bottled drinking water. Plastic fibers from our clothes fill our lakes and rivers, and fish caught in some of our most pristine lakes have flesh filled with synthetic plastic fibers. 

This is a worldwide problem, and it won’t be solved overnight. But let’s start with this: be aware of the plastic around you, and do something every day to help stop the growing problem. Pick up a plastic bag or water bottle off the street. Recycle every possible piece of plastic you can. Bring your own bag to the store to avoid using single-use plastic bags. 

Today’s college grads may have a future in plastic, but that future will be figuring out a way to get ourselves out of the plastic mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. 

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