One Word.


Except I don't think they're the future; I think they're a necessary evil, with emphasis on the evil.  This article explains a lot, so read it.  All of it.  This video is also quite sobering; I discovered it while doing research for Green Week last year.

One more tiny piece of the puzzle: plastic bottles are being recycled in increasing quantities (although I do think that in a few centuries, our descendants will laugh at us for using the last of our fossil fuel to package, ship and distribute tiny quantities of something that we could get practically free out of any tap in any building in the developed world.)  The caps are a different story: they are a special type of rigid plastic that can't currently be recycled in this country.  At recycling centers, they are separated out and thrown -- yep -- into landfills, if they don't find their way into rivers and oceans first.

They are much smaller than bottles, and they come in pretty colors and nice neat shapes, so they often go unnoticed.  But once you start looking, you see them everywhere: half-buried in the lawn of your workplace, rolling away from the curb in the parking lot, floating in the water at the dock. Little plastic circles that will never go away.  Over time, they will photodegrade into smaller and smaller plastic "nurdles" that are even more toxic and bear an unfortunate resemblance to fish eggs, e.g., food for sea mammals and birds.

I've been noticing them, because I've been looking, ever since a colleague told me about Aveda's new campaign to recycle bottlecaps.  She put a big empty pretzel jar in each one of her classrooms and spread the word in her classes (she teaches Marine Ecology.) It was amazing how quickly they filled up.  I started a little pile on my kitchen counter, and in the two weeks we were off for spring break, I had ammassed quite a few.

Today I made a sign, which I hung around the neck of an empty glass vase that's already half-full with caps (someone gave us a case of sparkling water, which mercifully is almost gone; the others are from detergent, vitamins, and the occasional juice or soda) and placed it in my studio.  I'm telling my students about it in hopes that they'll bring their caps to me, and in hopes that they'll ask the tough questions that no one wants to ask: why is this so complicated?  Why do we have to mail these away to recycle them?  Why did we start producing them in the first place?  And, most importantly, can we stop?