(The post title comes from the movie “The Graduate” and conveys the attitude towards going into business for young people in the 1960’s)
Plastic was rare when I was a kid in the 1950’s. In fact, we associated plastic with cheap, flimsy and ugly. Nearly every item was made of wood, metal, glass or cardboard. Most liquids came in glass bottles, including bleach, shampoo, oils, juices and syrups. Toys were made mainly of wood or metal. My blocks were wood cubes. My doll furniture was wood, with a smattering of “cheap plastic.” Our Ferris wheel toy was made of sheet metal, as was our toy train. As I mentioned yesterday, my lunch box was metal. Most food came in cardboard boxes, as much of it does today. However, the boxes were never covered in plastic, nor did they have their contents wrapped in plastic inside the box.
Glass is of course breakable, and there were endless clean up jobs when one of us kids dropped something in the house. Metal edges can cut, and more than one toy wounded one of us. Cardboard doesn’t protect crackers from getting stale. On the other hand, crackers didn’t have a chance to go stale in our house with six people eating them!
So is the proliferation of plastic more beneficial or harmful? We can see islands of plastic debris in the oceans, clearly a negative. We are beginning to examine the effects of plastic on the disruption of hormones in humans. There is some research about decreasing sperm count, for instance, in relation to the chemicals used to make plastic.
I realize that we are unlikely to return to the simple packaging of my childhood. However, it was a time of much less waste and much less negative effect on the world around us. All for the sake of “convenience.”