Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A clean world less than 50 years ago

If you think of the amount of non-biodegradable plastic waste we leave behind, it is hard to believe that the world was a pristine place only 50 years ago. The first commercially successful plastic, called Bakelite, was invented in 1907. The widespread use of it took off before all too long. I still remember a time when plastic was not around. Everything was biodegradable. I wish someone had documented that era from this perspective. Yes, many baby boomers will be able to recall this time which would be in their childhood days.

I grew up in Malaysia. The situation may be slightly different in other parts of the world. During those days, the grocery store wrapped everything using recycled newspaper. Plastic bags were not introduced yet. Packages were tied up using straw (or reed), which had to be kept wet continuously or else they dried up and broke easily. Instead of big plastic bags, shoppers were given paper bags to put their purchases in, if needed. Housewives each carried an open woven basket to the wet market every morning. Umbrellas made of bamboo material and waxed paper were used to keep out the sun and the rain. At home, pails and basins were made of aluminum. Pots were aluminum or clay. Drinks came in glass bottles which were collected and sent back to the bottling company in wooden crates for re-use. Needless to say, there was a non-plastic alternative for every plastic product we use today. In those days, the environment was free of permanent garbage. Every piece of rubbish carelessly strewn degraded within a short time. Yes, I believe the earth was a pristine place only 50 years ago. The oceans were free of filth, and the Himalayas must have look like unexplored territory to every new visitor.

1 comment:

wei said...

how ironic it is when we think that we are now living a life of better quality when we really aren't. i do agree that the invention of plastic is a huge mistake rather than something good.