After work I walked over to a huge sporting goods store and bought myself a new jacket. To get to the mens outdoor clothing section I needed to walk through what seemed to be acres of sports equipment, rack after rack of shirts, balls, caps, every variety of shoe. Along the way it occurred to me that I was surrounded by plastic, as all of this clothing was indeed made of plastic. We hikers and sports enthusiasts don different forms of non-biodegradable cellophane bag in which to wander Europe’s forests and football fields.
I found and purchased a jacket I like. a cashier young enough to be my granddaughter tolerantly listened to my explanation of not needing an additional sack for my purchase because I intended to wear my new plastic in place of the fleece I’d been wearing, which while looking its comfortably six-years-old and still being quite serviceable also displayed an American North Face logo. The new jacket is adorned with a German-looking brand name to mask its Vietnamese origin. I imagine young Vietnamese workers somewhere going to work in a sweatshop surrounded by fields in which the soil is laced with Agent Orange’s dioxin. The cashier was nice enough to fetch her scissors from a drawer and clip off tags which inform me “Wir rüsten dieses Produkt mit Eco Finish aus.” Eco Finish is a water-repellent coating without PFCs, thus my plastic garment will protect me from rain “und hält die Natur sauber.” In three languages another tag informs me that I will receive “warmth, softness and lightweight comfort from post-consumer recycled material.” “Post-consumer”, I think. I am encased in plastic buffered from the cold by the shredded remains of what was once someone’s toothbrush or waterbottle.
On my way home I passed these Stolpersteine, several times larger than any I’d seen before.