Yoplait cup tossed in sea 40 years ago, looks brand new

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/12/13/yoplait-cup-tossed-in-sea-40-y.html


Something tells me it wasn’t in sunlight very long, as the inks are still not faded.

But yes, plastics are very long lasting. Just like the glass that they replaced. RcPlease dispose of trash properly. Recycle when possible.


Impressive. I just replaced the old yogurt pots I use for rinsing paintbrushes were less than ten years old. Their colors still looked fine, but the plastic containers themselves were incredibly brittle. As the one in the picture does indeed “look brand new” I wouldn’t bet a farthing at million-to-one odds that it spent more than a month rolling around in the sea without at least some scaring of the paint.

40 year old Yoplait cup found at the seaside. No idea how long it had been laying about.


Anything I leave in the sun in or by my back yard pool … two weeks.


I suspect too that newer plastics are engineered to break down and become brittle in sunlight for this very reason.

And my initial concern about the ink isn’t conclusive, there are some inks very UV resistant, but most aren’t.

Maybe someone cleaned out their mothers house who had been saving stuff for the past 40 years, and threw it out, and some of it fell off the garage truck and made its way to the beach. I know my grandma, who lived through depression, tended to save things that might have a later use.


This, exactly. For all the earth-crunchy post-hippie granola of the 70s, they weren’t thinking much about what packaging plastic would do in landfills back then.


Don’t think of it as trash. Think of it as an immense treasure trove for future archaeologists. Just imagine how enriched we’d be today if we had a better understanding of how their yogurts evolved over the decades.

I vaguely remember a short story I read in high school about a pair of individuals (father and son? master and apprentice?) digging for priceless “dragon’s blood”. It’s revealed at the end that the story is set in the far future when civilization has long since crumbled and “dragon’s blood” is actually plastic. So the lesson is: don’t worry too much about all this garbage. It’ll be a valuable resource someday for the miserable survivors of whatever catastrophe befalls us.

(BTW, if anyone knows that short story I’d love to find it again)


From when this cup celebrated its 23rd birthday: “Hey now, you’re an all star, get your game on, Yoplait.”


And we know this has been in the sea for 40 years how, exactly? For all I know, it was in a hermetically sealed, barometrically controlled chamber until last week, at which point it was carried to the seashore and left there. The issues raised by the author are real and significant, but claims like “it was thrown into the sea 40 years ago” are unsupportable by the evidence and weaken the rest of the argument.


I think it is more than a little odd that it didn’t photodegrade. There is a reason why so many plastic things meant to be left outside for much less than 40 years are black.

Perhaps something in the unknown history of that cup explains that. Or someone found a cup and thought it would make for a more striking visual than real old degraded plastic.

That infographic at the bottom is making my forehead veins pop out. I mean, yes, the underlying message of “don’t pollute” is fine, but some awfully bloody violence has been done to the facts in the process of re-re-re-re-re-re-reforwarding it until it shows up as an Imgur link.

For example, I can believe that glass is chemically stable on the order of a million years. The silicon dioxide molecule made today in a furnace might still be around in 1,002,016. But it will have long since been eroded away from all the other molecules. A smooth piece of beach glass, which takes a few months to make, is about as harmless to the environment as any other rock in the ocean.

On the other hand, if you laid the pages of a newspaper flat on your lawn, they might be gone in six weeks. But it’s trivial to dig up perfectly legible newspapers from 50 or 100 years ago from a sufficiently old landfill.

As for the grave environmental threat posed by wool or bananas, I mean, come on.


So what’s the problem? This is obviously a perfectly normal and natural phenomena that has nothing to do with human activity.

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  1. if this has in fact been trash for 40 years, then it was buried the whole time

  2. I’ve never understood why we’re meant to feel horror at the idea of trash not breaking down. If batteries / plasticisers / paint / etc didn’t decompose – and thereby leach into the ecosystem – they wouldn’t be a problem as waste. Things that don’t decompose in the ground are just rocks.

(It’s a bit like how people go on about “radioactive” isotopes with half-lives of millions of years, which is mathematically equivalent to saying that they’re not noticeably radioactive; it’s short-lived isotopes that kill you)

Hail corporate.

The dosage makes the poison. One atom with a half-life of 10,000 years? Meh, whatever. 30 ships-worth? Yeah … that’s a problem.


There couldn’t possibly be anything inaccurate on Boing Boing, but just in case, has anybody snoped this?

I immediately thought of this:

Don’t think of it as dust. Think of it as maybe the soil of some great past civilization. Maybe the soil of ancient Babylon. It staggers the imagination. Maybe carrying soil that was trod upon by Solomon, or even Nebuchadnezzar.

(Maybe that was your intent…?)

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It wasn’t but maybe I should pretend it was.

Maybe Charles Schultz ate out that Yoplait cup.

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I remember reading that around 30 years ago. No clue what the title is but I bet it was in a SF anthology of some kind. Glad to see I’m not the only one it made an impression on.

Maybe it’s so youthful because yogurt is good for you. Did any of you think of that? :smirk: