- James Kingsford-Smith
Respect For Plastic
Plastic is made from crude oil.
Many people are not aware of this.
I was not fully aware until 5 years ago when I started studying science at university.
But all plastic from polystyrene - to polyester - to vinyl – to plastic bottles are made from long hydrocarbon chains formed 70 or 150 million years ago under the Earth’s surface.
Plastic is crude oil.
Why is this important?
Because oil is running out!
And our modern society is dependent of plastics in almost every industry!
From automobile parts that made cars more efficient, to the computing industry, which couldn’t function without plastic chips and cases. Plastic makes our planes fly, our buildings lighter. Plastic can be formed into any shape easily and precisely and it’s chemical composition adapted easily so that structures have the desired qualities we need. They can be hard as steel, malleable as taffy, they can glue materials together and they can be recycled into any other form.
Why then is this highly valuable and scarce resource treated as cheap plastic?
We value things less when they are made from plastic. A plastic chair is seen as cheap and disposable compared to a wooden one. Plastic imitation leather (pleather) is viewed as down market and a sign of social inferiority. A plastic knife and fork will be tossed in the trash without a thought where metal ones will be kept for generations.
We can breed more cows (almost 1.5 billion a year).
We can grow more trees.
But we can’t grow more plastic!
So what I suggest as a personal endeavor is to form a greater respect for plastic!
Sure there is bio-plastic but the industry is at an infantile status and there are huge problems with the mixing of bio-plastics and oil plastics for recycling purposes.
In the future, we will most certainly use a larger range of biological plastics and I welcome this time with open arms. But for now, 98% of you plastic products are hydrocarbon (oil) based and were originally formed over millions of years from a resource, which is rapidly diminishing from this planet.
Recycling of course is a hugely important industry, which has to grow in the next years. There is the huge dump or discarded plastics in our oceans, which by 2050 are predicted to outweigh all of the fish and mammal per biomass. It is disgusting and we cant tolerate it. But few people are aware of the huge energies required to sort plastics (yes there are many types and they don’t fit together), shred the plastic, melt it and then reform it. Right now it puts more CO2 in the air than it is worth… again I remain hopeful about the future!
We can all get angry at how much plastic wrapping our food and items come in but there are ways to boycott these products. It’s not only boycotting plastic bags. It’s not enough to be angry with those big evil corporations for forcing plastic on us.
How many people bother to wash plastic and put it back into their drawers and cupboards?
Leaching and Health Issues
Yes there are plastifiers and additives that are placed in the chemical mix of some plastics to break them down, making a chemical leach from vessels into some foods and drink over a relatively short period of time. But you have to know that there are a vast range of different kinds of plastics! Not all of them leach and not all of them have plastifiers and additives that are harmful.
You only have to educate yourself.
You need to know which plastic you are dealing with and what additives they contain. Below is a list of different plastics, what they are used for and if they leach.
Buy a nice plastic Tupperware.
Bring your own straw.
Drink from glass or metal bottles and reuse them again and again.
Don’t throw away plastic furniture. Buy solid plastic chairs that last.
Don’t be confused by the cost of plastic and its actual worth.
Our lives would not function without it…
…and it is running out, my friends!