The terrible power of plastic is that it quickly becomes useless but never goes away


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/01/11/the-terrible-power-of-plastic.html


#2

In Reno one time I took a look around and thought to myself, “yuck! This is what mobsters think is classy” but when I came back from that trip I started seeing this aesthetic everywhere.

We’ve built an incredibly ugly place to live in. Plastic fru-fru is just part of this larger bankrupt aesthetic.


#3

On the upside, peak oil means peak plastic.


#4

Some other of his regrettable opinions aside, Jim Kunstler said it best - America sure does ugly well.


#5

Bet he hasn’t found the old drywell they emptied the motor oil into, yet.


#6

When the nearby watercourse flooded last winter, it left behind a layer of mud that was full of plastic garbage. It made me realize just how much was normally getting swept out into the SF Bay (and ocean) on a regular basis.
We’ve reached a point where we’re finally realizing how environmentally damaging those micro-fragmentfs of plastic are. And while plastic easily degrades to that point, it persists for a very, very long time in that form. Even if we stopped producing plastic containers tomorrow, it would still be ubiquitous in the environment. And that’s obviously not going to happen - there’s enormous push-back just on getting rid of fairly minor sources of plastic pollution. Instead, we’re producing more of it. I don’t know that anyone ever really foresaw an environmental apocalypse where we smothered ourselves in toxic micro-plastic debris.


#7

You can turn plants into plastic right?


#8

I’m in Hawaii and this. Trying to find a grill cover that will last an entire year? is pointless. Somehow my plastic kayaks seem to be doing ok, but thanks for the reminder to do a better job of shading them.


#9

Yes, that is where all plastics come from. Petroleum is from plants originally. Some clever chemical engineers figured out how to polymerize plastics from plant material more directly.

One of the main differences between plastics and bio-plastics and petrol and bio-fuel is largely that the bio ones are sourced from plants which sequestered its carbon in our lifetime and hence is considered carbon neutral.

straight plastic is a very stable biologically neutral substance. it is also very rigid and brittle. so they’ve created formulations that incorporate other chemicals and plastic softeners. it is these softeners that leach into water, are hormone disruptors, etc. They are what we blame for much of plastics chemical impact in the waste stream. Most plastic will have leached all those substances once it is broken down into small bits, at that point its main environment impact is it being consumed and accumulating physically as it doesn’t break down quickly.

plastic production and plastic recycling produce more direct negative invisible environmental impact than the visible ugly long chain of large physical waste. by the time we get the plastic the worst part of the damage it will do during its lifecycle is already done, and it isn’t visible. the visible stuff is just what we notice and freak out over.


#10

Poor folks take their garbage out to the desert and dump it rather than pay fees at the landfill.

This happens in the Chicago suburbs , and even in towns without required garbage stickers. Drives me fucking crazy in the places without stickers. People suck.


#11

Slow-moving but very affecting.


#12

I always figured this is the case. All that chemistry magic can’t be good for the planet, for us.

Yep. If you’ve ever visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium, they are taking this issue head on with a really good exhibit about plastic pollution in the ocean. It’s really eye opening, and made me change my behavior, however infinitesimally minor in its impact (such as not using plastic drinking straws and beverage cup lids, etc). Check it:
https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/conservation-and-science/our-priorities/ocean-plastic-pollution


#13

the bits about glass and metal waste really detracted from the point. last time i checked glass and metal were pretty great things to be using if we are going to use anything. nature is totally cool with glass and metal.


#14

My New Years Resolution was to do a better job with my plastic waste/recycling.


#15

Sort of like government.


#16

Speaking of plants and polymers; they pioneered mass pollution with environmentally persistent polymers. Ran riot for several tens of millions of years before decomposition techniques evolved and left enough trash to turn into coal that we named a geological era after it.

And that was after the initial ‘genocide of the anaerobes’ incident. Photosynthetic assholes, really.


#17

This also happens when the board of selectmen closes the dump, on Thanksgivin’ (Say hi to Officer Obie)


#18

So does humanity. There’s not a place we’ve explored that hasn’t been polluted in some way - on Earth, in orbit, the Moon, around the Solar System, and beyond.

I wouldn’t be surprised if extraterrestrial beings decided to call us something like Pig-Pen.


#19

I am gonna float another theory:

Humanity is in that awkward teenage phase where they don’t clean up their room and are super angsty.


#20

Hmmm, if you mean angsty like Trelane or Charlie X, I’m not sure I want to be around when the parents show up!