[Part 1] The Journey of Your Plastic Toothpaste Tubes.

Morgane Soret @ 2022-02-22 14:28:54 +0000

Did you know that the first plastic toothpaste tube you held as a child is still somewhere here on this planet? 

Plasticus Tubus’ life began in the normal way for his kind, and whilst not born in a hospital, or to doting parents, or even having his name placed on the waiting list for the local ‘a-grade’ kindergarten, he and his kind would leave a lasting impression on the world. Something that could not be erased by clicking the delete button, or rewriting a history book. So we will start at his very beginning, on the lonely, windswept platform of an offshore drilling rig, where dark, liquid petroleum was pumped from deep beneath the sea bed into large containers before venturing on a journey across the high seas. Some of his kind didn’t make it passed the first step, being tossed overboard to float as an oily slick across the oceans.

Luckily, perhaps, for Plasticus, his path to maturity saw him transformed and remoulded to fit the capricious nature of the consumer world. He became a tube, made from many, indestructible layers of plastic with a thin, metal lining - easy to hold and squeeze in the hands of those that desired what his label offered. He travelled to a plant to be filled with an oozing chemical compound that promised all kinds of miracles, most noticeably fresh breath and the chance to live without ugly and painful, blackened teeth. To make himself more appealing, he was packed into a small, colourful box, promoting his virtues, and avoiding the awkward truth.

At this point Plasticus was packed alongside hundreds of others like himself and was sold, once again, journeying - this time - to a noisy, brightly lit supermarket. He sat patiently on the shelf, enduring neon lighting, loud music and annoying, inhouse broadcasts. He was waiting to find an owner, and make his mark in the world.

Finally Plasticus arrived in a place he could call home. He was unwrapped and positioned in a cup, alongside a beautiful, bamboo toothbrush. Unlike himself, she had been the thoughtful gift from a caring, conscious friend. The friend had hoped to subtly influence the purchasing habits of this plastic-loving home owner.  It wasn’t an altogether ideal existence for Plasticus, because as his formula was squeezed out, he started to crumple and could no longer be placed upright in the cup. He lay uncomfortably in an untidy heap on the basin, collecting soapy water and harbouring a few germs. Sometimes he felt cold when one of the children would forget to replace his cap, and his brightly dyed, artificial chemical paste would ooze out, and mingle with bacteria on the porcelain.

Like many disposable items, after a few weeks, his paste had been squeezed out and Plasticus had to say goodbye to his beautiful, bamboo friend as he was chucked away with the garbage. In stark contrast to the delicate aromas of his unobtainable, bamboo beauty, the bin stank, and so it was a small relief when finally some men tipped his container into a huge truck and drove off with it. He was then hurled onto a landfill site. Here he met all of his friends from the supermarket shelf, and billions of others like him. 

Every day the hot sun beat down, and he wished the world would have mercy on him, and release him from the clutches of his plastic being. The stench of leachate, busily decomposing fermented food and other wastes prevailed. But for some reason, no matter how hard the sun beat down, no matter how much it rained or how prevalent and powerful the leachate was, Plasticus remained intact. At one end of the dump a huge furnace burned rubble, and many of his friends went that way, happily releasing black clouds of noxious, petroleum gas back into the atmosphere.

Now unlike you or I, Plasticus lived an exceptionally long, and rather disappointing life. After about 500 years on the tip, he eventually fragmented into smaller pieces. He longed to leave the hellish dump, and be gone forever. Sadly though, that never happened. His plastic body cracked further until eventually he had become a million particles of micro plastic, tiny bits of himself lying all over the show.

 

One night, a huge storm washed him through water courses down to a beach, where he littered the sandy shores. Tiny pieces swept out to sea and bobbed about in the ocean. A beautiful sea turtle swallowed some larger fragments, mistaking them for food. It didn’t end well for the turtle, and whilst Plasticus had intended no harm, and only hoped to help clean people’s teeth, he had become an unwitting killing-agent for a sinister, plastic army. The turtle suffered in agony, the plastic waste strangling him from inside, and it eventually washed up on the shore, rotting in the hot sun.

Plasticus Tubus’ life was not in vain. Traces of his plastic were plucked from the turtle’s belly by scientists. His fragments joined others on display in a virtual museum for children. Under the photographs of the dead turtle and Plasticus’ remains  was a quote by an activist that had lived 500 years before. She had worked for a movement ahead of her time.  

The quote beneath his remains read:

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The first plastic toothpaste tube you used is still out there.

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