Brave New Plastic-free World


It has struck me just how much plastic we use, most of it unnecessary. For example if I want a protein shake, or a bottle of lemonade I will buy a plastic bottle. I will gain a mild sense of satisfaction from consuming its contents, then throw it in a bin where there is a strong chance it will not be recycled, and will reside on our planet for hundreds of thousands of years, a perennial token of extreme luxury. I didn’t need it, I could have just drank water, which would have been better for me. Plastic is evidence of our weakness, impulsivity, wastefulness, greed, convenience,  and consumerism. Maybe Coca Cola and Pepsi will live on billions of years after us lot are finished. Man lives and dies, corporations however are immortal.

The other day I read that Indonesia consumes 93 million plastic straws a day. 93 million. And that’s just Indonesia and that’s just one type of product and that’s just one day and we don’t even need straws.

We are producing over 300 million tons of plastic every year, 50% of which is for single-use purposes – utilized for just a few moments, but on the planet for at least several hundred years. More than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year.

In spite of all this d and g, I believe there is some hope for a less plasticky future. Watch this video, it will explain that there are already reliable methods of cleaning up large masses of plastic in the ocean, alleging that with this new technology we can clean up fifty per cent of the great Pacific garbage patch every five years.

We have to come off single-use plastics at some point. We want a plastic-free world. That’s not a political statement; yes it kills the ecosystems we all love and depend on, but it feels horrible, it looks horrible, makes the landscape look horrible, plastic is just utter, utter bullshit. We can do a lot better. We have to come off plastic anyway because the resource will eventually run out. We may have an alternative material that is biodegradable, we may not, either way we will get by just fine.

The video claims that after collection of the sea plastic, we can recycle it. That’s good, go on recycling what we’ve already used, that’s fine, but I would argue we don’t even need to do that. We should be aiming high here. The plastic-free world doesn’t have to be a pipe-dream. And by the world being plastic free, I don’t just mean that we aren’t using plastic, I mean all the used plastic is gone too. We want to get rid of the whole bloody lot.

I may sound like a whackjob for what I’m about to suggest, but I’m willing to put my neck on the line. Maybe this is ridiculous because it is not possible, maybe it is ridiculous because it is completely obvious to anyone that this is inevitable. I have no idea.

It’s all in good spirits anyway, I’ve added some details just for our entertainment. Here goes-

Problem – plastic is everywhere in the environment.

Solution- we make giant robots for litter picking purposes that can collect litter and take it to a GLSS (Giant Litter Storage Site, preferably in some cold, miserable area of Siberia, or Derbyshire). 

Explantion- there are different kinds of these benevolent servant bots, one of the most important being the ALRBs (Aquatic Litter Retrieval Bots), capable of distinguishing and collecting the chunky plastic pieces from the oceans- a very, very long process but we have lots of time and the ability to make loads and loads of bots. And let’s not forget they can be GIANT as well. If you want to let your imagination go wild here, we could make them look like animals,  maybe giant whales with loads of arms. They can have big smiles and can wave at you when they swim past. Engineers are obviously better placed than I to speculate what would be the most effective design, but I agree with nature that the general fish model is the most efficient for travelling through and under water with precision and good speed.

I wrote that before I watched the video of the ocean clean up tech, so sadly I fear that the lovely ALRBs might be redundant before they’ve even been created, but it was fun while it lasted.

We can have GLRBs (General Litter Retreival Bots, but you can call them GLBs if you wish) that are effective at collecting litter on land. These have wheels, legs, wings, whatever they need to get to wherever they want as quickly as possible. They can have vacuum snouts capable of getting in difficult places, and extendable claws of varying lengths and widths, with strong, dexterous robotic hands. Perhaps you think these things might be quite ugly in themselves, you don’t want a GLB getting in the way of your family photo outside Cadbury World, but they could be made to camouflage with their surroundings (unlike a chameleon), or they could only work at night when everyone’s in bed, or you could make them look like peacocks. So that problem is no biggy.

They could also be amphibious and capable of doing the jobs of their cousins the ALRBs but a machine capable of doing so much would be quite frankly ridiculous, and I’m here to make sensible suggestions. We don’t want to try and do too much too fast.

Of course, you cannot use the same technology used in the video for getting the sea garbage for getting the garbage on land, so the GLBs are the best option I’ve seen yet. For the GLBs, the future is bright, and I’ll be damned if I ever come across any video that tells me otherwise.

Problem 2- getting all of the plastic off the planet.

Solution- fly it all out into space, dump it and be rid of it forever.

Explanation- let us assume space travel gets a lot easier with the onset of AI discoveries (like it wasn’t easy enough already for our biochemical brains to work out). Let us imagine you can send these machines on lengthy space missions. They can probably generate power while in space through solar, but Lord knows we can give them enough charge anyway, we send probes to and from planets easy enough. If you think they have to go too far for a dump, fine, they don’t need to come back, let them do what they want, remember we’ll have loads of them because these bots will be extremely efficient at producing other bots. 

And no I’m not advocating galactic fly-tipping, I’m not a complete yob. I know you can’t just throw mugs at the elderly from a five-storied apartment block, I know you can’t chuck litter in space and that’s fine because it’s space. However, I really don’t see any qualms, ethical or otherwise with them carting it off to another orbital body via the use of IPSTLDBs (Inter-Planetary Space Travelling Litter Disposal Bots). Why don’t we nominate our own refuse-planet? Some crap one like Venus? Venus would love to melt our plastic for us.

There is no life on any of these places that our plastic waste would disrupt, besides, the scales are so much larger. I invite you to consider Jupiter as a solid option.

Jupiter has a surface area of 61.42 billion km² and mass that appears to me to be in a different language 1.898 × 10^27 kg (317.8 M⊕) (???). Jupiter will be Jupiter, no intelligent primates, or superintelligent AI has the power to influence its existence. Even if you’re a fan of old Jupey, that O.K, why not just tip it all on Ganymede, its largest moon, which is larger than Mercury? Or some equally insignificant planetary satellite that nobody cares about.

I really do believe that AI computers and new age robots have the potential to help us make progress in the world, progress of a degree that to even contemplate now would seem completely unfathomable. And if we are lucky enough to get to a peaceful future, without global famine or nuclear war or being hit by a giant meteorite, why not go one further and go for a world completely without plastic? All we need to do is create the AI, then they’ll take the reins, no worries. I’m certain that exactly what I’ve suggested, or something very similar is only round the corner.

The only thing in question is whether we shall live to see the day.

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