The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
July 7, 2009

Plastic: What is it good for?

This morning, I had a telephone conversation with a plastics industry insider who runs a web site dedicated to supporting plastics professionals. Greg from Plastics.com is a nice guy. Very sincere. And surprisingly, we found many more areas of agreement than probably either of us expected.

I won’t go into the details of the conversation in this post, except to tell you that I expressed to him my major concerns with plastic: non-biodegradable waste from disposable plastic containers and packaging; chemicals that can leach from plastics and the fact that those chemicals are not disclosed to consumers; harm to wildlife, etc. Greg shared with me his views and expressed that he has some of the same environmental concerns that I do.

Now we’d like your input.

What do you see as the major problems with plastic?

What uses for plastic (if any) are necessary and beneficial to society?

Would you like to see a world without any plastic at all? What would that look like?

Do you trust the plastics industry to tell you the truth about their products? Why or why not?

Do you trust the American Chemistry Council to tell you the truth?

What questions would you ask a plastics professional if you could?

What role do you think the plastics industry should play in solving the environmental problems associated with plastic?

What else would you like to share?

As you know if you’ve read this blog a long time, I’m not out to demonize anyone or any product. But I’ve seen the harm caused by the overconsumption and misuse of plastic, and while my personal environmental efforts have broadened to include other issues, reduction of harm from plastic pollution (out in the world and inside our bodies) continues to be my main passion and purpose.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’m hoping we can begin a real, honest dialogue with the manufacturers and purveyors of plastic.
 

35 comments
terry@Car Accident Injury Claim
terry@Car Accident Injury Claim

Plastic based products would have a higher carbon sequestration value than wood, which would be good because the carbon in plastic is tied up for thousands of years. And plastic does not pollute, it is a very inert substance which means it does not dissolve or react with anything in our environment. .-= terry@Car Accident Injury Claim´s last blog ..Safety Measures on Preventing Bike Accident Injury =-.

Fake Plastic Fish
Fake Plastic Fish

Dear Anonymous, you have a lot to say. I'd be happy to have an actual conversation with you and answer some of your many questions. Unfortunately, I don't know who you are. I'd be happy for you to leave a way for us to contact you. I don't blog anonymously, and it would be nice if you didn't comment anonymously.

Anonymous
Anonymous

What makes me nuts is the uniformed critic. Don't trust the plastics' industry, but trust any blogger who tells you that toxins are leeching out of plastic - they're not. Don't believe the plastics industry if you don't want to, but where are the lawyers filing lawsuits all over the US if plastics are so toxic? You know they would! Everything in your life is made better with plastics. For a generation that lives in athletic shoes (heaven forbid you call them sneakers) you don’t even realize what your life would be without plastic, yet you think somehow it will be better. It won’t. Get into a car accident without plastic laminate on the windows and see if you survive. Think that plastic water bottles or bags are the problem? Or is irresponsible disposal of them the problem? And how does an industry solve the problem of people LITTERING with its product? Should they have to? Yes, unfortunately, there are huge floating plastic islands of garbage in our oceans. Do you think plastic industry execs are sending their employees on a rotating basis 24/7/365 to toss their products into the sea? Blame the litterbugs! Plastic bags in the US are made with the toxic and difficult to dispose of WASTE from mining natural gas. Rather than trying to find a way to get rid of it safely, it’s safely made into bags. If you choose not to recycle them, that's on you, not the industry. Plastic ends up in landfill and never breaks down. So what? In a properly executed landfill, NOTHING breaks down. You could dig up a 50 year old newspaper and read it. And what's wrong with landfills - what do you think should be done with mined out quarries? Fill them with water for kids to drown in?Your favorite organic food store won't use plastic bags anymore – good for them! Oh, wait, go to their bulk foods or produce department - what kind of bags do you see on the rollers to put your bran flakes, organic fruits and veggies into? Plastic. They don't like it when you use your hemp totes to bag your bok choy - they can't scan it at the register with their plastic bar code reader! Paper bags are made from TREES. The process of making paper utilizes huge amounts of gas to get trucks to the forest to cut down trees, then transport to a paper mill. At the mill you need WATER - lots of fresh water to turn a tree, or even old paper, into new paper. Water by the way is a precious FINITE resource - just ask anyone who doesn't have it. Plastic bags weigh less to transport. The ratio is like 10 to 1 in weight. They're also smaller - so your favorite organic chain store can get more on fewer trucks. Good for the environment? Gee - plastic uses up toxic waste, weighs less and is more fuel efficient to transport vs. paper which uses up trees and water, weighs more and is therefore less fuel efficient to transport. Tough debate.Because of plastic, planes, buses, motorcycles, trucks and cars weigh less, and are therefore much more fuel efficient! Good for you ozone! Because of plastic medical science saves lives that would otherwise be lost. Period. Hate the over-packaging of products with plastic containers? Don’t blame the plastics industry – blame the shoplifters who ruin it for everyone. SMALL things are placed in BIG containers simply to make them harder to steal. The fun of knowing it takes you hours to open them is just a bonus! Plastic is evil because it never breaks down? Neither does concrete, which by the way creates huge problems for the ozone layer (it’s true, look it up) but no one is boycotting paved roads.You want bio plastic that breaks down? Alternative fuels that don’t use crude oil? Great - soy or corn crops being sold to the plastics or gasoline industry, rather than for food - think that will make you grocery bill bigger or smaller?You want the truth about plastics – do you think you can handle the truth? Visit savetheplasticbag.com or plasticmythbusters.org. The truth is, you couldn’t live the way you want to live without them. Luckily, you don’t have to.

Anonymous
Anonymous

earlier on, i commented that plastic is too cheap and that is why it is used too much. on his blog, the plastics specialist said plastic is eco because it takes less energy to produce and that's why it's cheap; i would add that plastic is made of petroleum and that's why it's cheap!

Supriya Doshi
Supriya Doshi

I don't think that getting rid of plastic altogether would solve the problem. In the end, it seems like the issue is more waste than anything. Things like plastic bags and disposable razors aren't necessary products, rather just a creation that caters to our desire for ease. Unfortunately, these things aren't going to go away anytime soon. We are so used to the convenience of plastic products that I imagine they'll only multiply. But as long as there are people out there that care and spread the word about the negative aspects of plastic, there's always hope!

Anonymous
Anonymous

Plastic....plastic...and more plastic, someone said we will be known as having lived in the "Plastics Age." I hope that we will be known as the innovators who developed plastics that made our live better and innovators that made plastics that didn't hurt future generations. We have come a long way with developing new applications for plastic, now we need to develop plastic that is safe. Plastics should be designed to be sustainable, plastic products should be designed to meet a “Cradle to Cradle” criterion. I believe that all plastics can be made biodegradable. The idea is to make something, use it, reuse it, recycle it, and when its useful life is over it return to the earth as a harmless substance; biodegradable plastic can do that. The bottom line is that plastics are entrenched in our lives...they aren't going away. But we can do something as consumers to help our environment...we need to demand safer plastics. Don't buy packages that overuse plastic, don't buy products made of plastic unless that plastic is biodegradable. Money talks and we consumers can make a difference. Manufacturers will make products we demand.Maxhttp://www.ensobottles.com

Barry
Barry

Greg Koski is a great guy as are most plastics industry professionals. Read Greg's blog post that Beth Terry mentions above. But also check out this blog -- http://www.inthehopper.org. It features "what's it good for" posts quite a bit. Just click on the "Beneficial Uses" category. One aspect nobody has mentioned here is all the environmetal and sustainability benefits that plastics provides fron bioplastics (made from corn, potato and other bio-based materials)to the plastics that are absolutely essential to windmills, fuel-efficient automobiles, solar panels and much more.

Fix
Fix

I would like to add that I think plastic is a terrible waste of a precious resource, oil. And then we just throw it "away," where it stays forever. That said, I think some medical and safety uses for plastic are essential. (Even though, when plastic is trash, it is unhealthy and unsafe.) Now that we've achieved so much with technology, I think we can refine our progress even more to make sure we're using the best materials for the best processes. And the decider of the "best materials" shouldn't be the industry that provides them.Megan

knutty knitter
knutty knitter

I look at the paper bags of sweets we make up to sell and then I look at the commercial made up plastic bags that we also sell and I think "Why?"I was on a course today - just a work thing - nothing special but we did get morning, afternoon tea and lunch. Real crockery and silverware through out. Not a piece of plastic anywhere. I am glad the plastic stuff never made it here to any great extent.Small mercies add up!viv in nz

Nat Brazil
Nat Brazil

http://blogs.plastics.com/just_one_word/2009/07/plastic-what-is-it-good-for-absolutely-lots.htmlHi all, I'm the plastics professionalal that talked with Beth, really enjoyed it. I think we agree more than disagree. And the same goes for many of your comments.I've addressed our conversation and many of your questions on my blog, link above.Please feel free to drop in. The public is also welcome in our forums where you can ask many plastics professionals various questions.Hope to see you there. Thanks Beth!

Anonymous
Anonymous

i think the problem with plastic is that it is too cheap and that is why most products are packaged with it when there are corn bags for example that look like plastic bags that are biodegradable.still, i wouldn't like to live without plastic: it is necessary in medicine and i never heard of a plastic allergy - i don't know about people working in making plastics; if plastics are used responsibly they are very useful; still it should be compulsory to not throw plastics in the garbage can just like it is with non-rechargeable batteries

Pure Mothers
Pure Mothers

Someone mentioned soy based plastics. That would concern me too, as most soy is GMO. What would that do to our water once it got into the water table. Have you read about Morgellon's Disease? Not a fan of Franken foods.

Pure Mothers
Pure Mothers

My main issue with plastic is that it doesn't biodegrade. I think the plastics industry needs to come up with alternatives. Something used for a few minutes should never stay on the earth forever. It's mostly disposable plastic that concerns me, although I would love alternatives to plastic found in items like computers, on cars and hospital equipment. No, I don't trust the chemical industry to tell us the truth. (You read the leaked memo!) Just like I don't trust the pharmaceutical industry to tell me the truth. Too high profits at stake and strong lobbyists with deep pockets on both accounts.

Lara S.
Lara S.

My answers to your questions are similar to what other readers have said.I'd like to add this:I think the plastic industry should be making full toxicity tests for every product, to control leaking of chemicals into food (if it's used for food packaging), into bodies (if it's used in fabrics for clothes, etc), and also into air, water and soil so as to monitor the whole cycle of the plastic even if it ends up in a landfill, an incinerator or the sea.Each product should have disposal recommendations for it to be safe, and those recommendations should come from the study of the plastics under different conditions (including the conditions used to recycle the plastic, since I'd expect there might be toxic gases to create in the process).Also, it would be great if the industries offered to support the responsible disposal of the plastic products (something like "ok, if you choose to incinerate the plastic, it's up to you, but research proves this type of plastic can be safely recycled so this industry collects and recycles it".)Also, I agree with Tameson that they should raise the prices of plastics, but I think prices should raise for disposable items and decrease for medical products such as blood bags, etc. which so far are inevitably plastic. Maybe the decrease in plastic medical items would help the industry keep a positive public image while decreasing plastic waste.Also, for what I know, most plastic medical supplies are made from PVC, which is one of the most toxic plastics. Research should be done to change this.Ok I think that's all :)

Jennifer Taggart, TheSmartMama
Jennifer Taggart, TheSmartMama

I would like to see a world with a lot less plastic - particularly less single use plastic. We don't need disposable cutlery, dishes, cups. We also don't need single use plastic containers for our food, cleaning products or beauty products. We particularly do not need single use disposable toothbrushes, or plastic beads in our body scrubs.There are some uses of plastic for which I am thankful - car safety seats come to mind having been in a car accident with my child. I think there are medical uses which cannot yet be made without plastic, some safety equipment, and probably other specialty equipment as well.But a lot of it we don't need. Sure, it is most convenient. Sure, it is easier. Lighter.But at what cost? Oceans clogged with plastic, landfills clogged with plastic. All for convenience.

Cherie Wilkinson
Cherie Wilkinson

I'm in line with Angie here. Working in a lab I know plastic is a necessity, you just aren't able to reuse things, even with the utmost hygiene there's just too greater risk for contamination.I foresee plastics being weeded out anyway, as the cost increases (oil prices). Until it's going to be completely uneconomical for companies to use it for packaging.Death to everyday plastic. Sustainable plastics where required (labs and medical).

Laura
Laura

What do you see as the major problems with plastic?The fact that it is basically here for ever. It will get smaller but it will not ‘go away’ for a very very long time. It leaches chemicals into our bodies that we know aren’t safe. What uses for plastic (if any) are necessary and beneficial to society? I think people often sight medical needs as a forum in which plastic is necessary and beneficial. A lot of medical problems were dealt with using glass or other natural materials. Could we look into using other materials before and instead of plastic? Also, do we have any idea how much plastic or toxins are injected directly into a persons blood stream when they are injected with blood that has been sitting in a plastic blood bag for however long? Are we sure it is none? Is it only a little bit? Would you like to see a world without any plastic at all? What would that look like?I would love to see a world without any plastic. But it’s simply not going to happen. It would be cleaner and move slower transportation wise. There would be fewer items and less stuff. I am almost thirty one years old and don’t even remember what the world looked like before there was plastic trash everywhere. I also know that there will always be plastic trash littering the world I live in. It will be the same for so many generations after me. That is so enormously, gut wrenchingly sad to me. Do you trust the plastics industry to tell you the truth about their products? Why or why not?Absolutely not. Large corporations aim to make money at all costs. Why would they tell the truth about a product that could harm people? If the harm could be blamed on something else or if it will be so diffused that there is no real way to trace it back to plastics, why would they fess up? That is just not how I feel corporations have ever worked. Do you trust the American Chemistry Council to tell you the truth?No. What questions would you ask a plastics professional if you could?Do you really think that the benefits of plastics out weigh the drawbacks? What role do you think the plastics industry should play in solving the environmental problems associated with plastic?I think that all of the plastic that is floating in the ocean, in the trees, in the bellies of birds and fish and sea turtles, all the one use plastic bottles, all the plastic burning in third world countries should be rounded up and the plastics industry should reuse it, recycle (downcycle) it or pay to store it. If plastics companies were responsible for the trash they produce, they would figure out a better way or stop producing so much crap. What else would you like to share?I am so grateful that Beth is opening a real dialog between people who make plastics and people who are concerned about plastics being in the world. I gave stern answers about but only in an effort to get straight to the point. Thanks for the opportunity to voice my opinions.

Martin at PlasticLess
Martin at PlasticLess

What uses for plastic (if any) are necessary and beneficial to society?I once wrote a post about the plastics used in health care. I gave it the title Awful Plastic Surgery because I am desperate for traffic (desperate I tell you!)Single use sterile items have probably saved a lot of lives over the years and they are probably more cost effective that using an autoclave on glass and steel for everything. Individuals can reduce plastic in this area by living healthy lives and not using the health care system more than necessary.

Pat
Pat

1. What do you see as the major problems with plastic? Plastic never goes away once trashed, and it was made by some scientist in some lab. 2. What uses for plastic (if any) are necessary and beneficial to society? Life saving uses, of course. Like the plastic bags used for IVs. And technological uses that help us learn more. Hopefully, I'll be able to use a Mac one day, free of guilt and plastic.3. Would you like to see a world without any plastic at all? What would that look like? I would like to see a world without plastic. I think it'd be much simpler. We wouldn't have to worry about what chemicals are getting into our food, whether or not this plastic bag is gonna end up in the Pacific ocean, etc. But I also think it'd be an innovative, creative kind of world. Like in Europe, where the cars normally get very high gas mileage, public transportation is amazing and yogurt comes in a cute paper cup. And my mac would be encased in sleek metal.4.Do you trust the plastics industry to tell you the truth about their products? Why or why not? I would like to say yes, that they would tell the absolute truth, but if you questioned Procter and Gamble about their animal testing, while they can't avoid the truth, they still manage to manipulate their answer to sound as innocent as possible. So the plastics industry might do the same. 5. Do you trust the American Chemistry Council to tell you the truth? ...I was unaware America had a Chemistry Council.6. What questions would you ask a plastics professional if you could? In this age, as we're moving into innovative, green ideas, are you ready and willing to follow with decisions such as the banning of plastic bags that will negatively effect the plastics industry? Are you willing to change with the times, and accept the fact that the plastics industry may shut down? Can you live without plastic?7. What role do you think the plastics industry should play in solving the environmental problems associated with plastic? Instead of continuing to manufacture petroleum based plastics harmful to the environment, coming up with creative new solutions that still carry the convenience of plastics (IVs, computers, etc.) yet do not harm the planet as much?

Clif
Clif

The thing I fear most about plastic is the way it can slip into any ecosystem and masquerade as something it is not, primarily food. The bird swallowing the bottle cap or plankton mistaking microscopic bits of plastic as food are example of this most insidious effect.Once plastic has lost the form it received from manufacturing, the whole idea of classification by number within the recycling symbol collapses.So, my priority would be the prevention of breakdown except under controlled conditions, the object being to do all we can to keep the stuff from escaping. That would mean better segregation of plastics by type when recycling or landfilling.

SusanB
SusanB

What do you see as the major problems with plastic?I’m prepared to say that the problem is not with plastic per se but with how we as a society choose to use and abuse it without regard to:-Disposal issues – persistence and nondegradability, small pieces that end up in wildlife, leaching-Pervasive use as a first choice due to cost savings resulting in decreased durability (a recent experience with broken bathroom faucet fitting comes to mind here) or simply a lot of cheap junk- Inability to full cycle (cradle to cradle) many of plasticsWhat uses for plastic (if any) are necessary and beneficial to society?As others have said, medical uses come to mind. There a number of building applications that are beneficial for energy efficiency (tyvek, blown insulation). I wouldn’t want to go back to electrical wires in cloth coverings. I think there’s a place for high quality durable plastics for storage, furniture, car bodies.Would you like to see a world without any plastic at all? What would that look like?I occasionally engage in a thought experiment where the andromeda strain does not dissipate and destroys all plastic in the world. Not pretty. Do you trust the plastics industry to tell you the truth about their products? Why or why not?I think they try (I could be termed a former plastic professional) within the confines of what they know. My experience is many times there are ingrained assumptions, institutional bias, mission think, assumptions that something will remain inert, not leach – and the plastics industry is responsive to its customers (not the ultimate consumer, the industries that use the product): if the consuming industry cares most about cheap versus biodegradable, the plastics industry is not going to “waste” money on determining whether a product will biodegrade in a particular manner. Also, I am well aware that the science of things changes over time.Do you trust the American Chemistry Council to tell you the truth?No, see above -- plus this is an industry vehicle. I trust it no more that say the Edison Institute about utilities. Informed skepticism is essential.What questions would you ask a plastics professional if you could?What are is that professional’s particular speciality doing to address environmental effects of their product.What role do you think the plastics industry should play in solving the environmental problems associated with plastic?A big one but they can't create a market that doesn't exist.

elle
elle

Why do they line the metal cans & lids with #7 or any plastic? It seems like just yesterday that lead was removed from cans. We have stopped using canned people food & pet food because of the plastic lining. It's really unfair that it's in the lids too, because my dogs like some chicken or turkey (very plain) baby food stirred into their dry food, & I'm thrilled with the glass jars, but disgusted with the metal lids! (I do make sure the jars & lids get reused by craft people or myself or at least recycled).Thanks for your efforts & I really was moved by the Oprah UTube video which I finally looked at today.

mudnessa
mudnessa

-What do you see as the major problems with plastic? My problems with plastic is its manufacturing process and the chemicals it releases and the effect it has on wildlife. Also the fact that it is everywhere and things like turtles eat it and die and things like that but that is not necessarily plastics fault it is the way people use it and just throw it around, but part of that problem is its over use. Just like so many other things we humans find something and use it to death, quite literally in this example. Do things really need to packaged in so much plastic, no and that needs to change as most who visit this site are all too aware. -What uses for plastic (if any) are necessary and beneficial to society?I think plastic is a good thing in many applications, especially medical, it is as I said in the previous response its over use in applications not really necessary that needs to change. -Would you like to see a world without any plastic at all? What would that look like? I think no plastic at all would be a step in the wrong direction. It is a wonderful product if used properly it is just realizing limitations that need to be made and what it is best for and of course proper disposal is key. -Do you trust the plastics industry to tell you the truth about their products? Why or why not? Everyone puts a spin on everything. That is the world we live in and we need to be aware of it. I wouldn't blindly trust anyone with what they say including those against plastic. Its about reading and educating yourself and drawing your own conclusions not just taking anyones word because they said so. -Do you trust the American Chemistry Council to tell you the truth?Same response as above.-What questions would you ask a plastics professional if you could?I'm not sure. I would have to think about this if I was think of anything. -What role do you think the plastics industry should play in solving the environmental problems associated with plastic?I think it should be their responsibility to try and show proper use. To help people understand the good and bad of their product and how to properly use them and properly dispose of them. They can't control what people are going to do with plastic but they can try and set an example. But it is not their responsibilty alone. A lot of people just need to realize we don't live in a disposable world and we need to stop living a disposable lifestyle. -What else would you like to share?I first learned of the real problems of plastic in college and I vowed to try and get rid of as much plastic as I could in my life. It lasted maybe a month before I realized it was impossible. I had no where for my paper to go in class, I had no pen, practically everything I touched was plastic and I got so dismayed and depressed about it I very quickly gave up and felt a ton of guilt. Now that I am older and I can control a lot more of my life I am finally making those changes and feel much better about it, but I find myself isolated from my friends and family a lot of times and I don't have the energy to try and explain to them. There is a big movement out there at this point in time but there is a lot of room for improvement and I think that is where we need to go.

Erika
Erika

I think it's the ubiquity of plastic which makes it a problem. If plastic was confined to the medical field and as components in cars and airplanes, that would be a pretty good world.Its ubiquity is what makes things like BPE toxicity and the Pacific Garbage Patch a problem. If it wasn't used in just about everything for sale at the grocery store, if it became a rare item on the consumer market, I'd consider that a win.I don't trust plastics manufacturers to tell the unvarnished truth, any more than any other manufacturer. They have a vested interest in coaxing us into buying and using plastic.

Linda
Linda

The main problems with plastic are 1) the chemicals that leach from them and therefore cause health issues and 2) the long-term litter or disposal problem. Many plastics have a useful life of a few minutes or hours. Then they hang around fouling the environment for centuries.Plastics can be beneficial when we need lightweight flexible materials, such as with medical needs.I don't that the world should be plastic-free. The plastic we use should be harmless to us and the environment. It should bio-degrade.I do not trust the plastics/chemical industry because they fight cities that try to be plastic bag free. That tells me that they want a profit at the risk of environmental harm.I would ask a plastics professional why the industry cannot make plastic that does not harm the environment in the manufacturing process and in the disposal of plastic waste.I feel that the plastics industry could solve a lot of the plastics issues if they wanted to.There is no doubt that this issue is real and becoming worse. We are FOULING OUR OWN NEST for the convenience that plastic offers. Just follow the Alguita in the plastic soup of the Pacific to see what we have done.

May
May

What do you see as the major problems with plastic? 1. the reliance on it as first option for so much manufacturing an packaging and 2. how it doesn't biodegradeWhat uses for plastic (if any) are necessary and beneficial to society? medical and housing usesWould you like to see a world without any plastic at all? What would that look like? I would be happy in a world where plastic biodegraded and was used much less, but a world without plastic isn't hard to imagine, just look at old pictures where they used natural resources. That'd what it would be like.Do you trust the plastics industry to tell you the truth about their products? Why or why not? No. Industries generally want to spin everything in their favor. Understandable but not trustworthy.Do you trust the American Chemistry Council to tell you the truth? Don't know anything about them. Prefer 3rd party information from nonprofits and the likeWhat questions would you ask a plastics professional if you could? can't think of anyWhat role do you think the plastics industry should play in solving the environmental problems associated with plastic? They should figure out how to take care of the waste and prevent it from happening in the future.

Robj98168
Robj98168

I agree with you for the most part on plastic- I think part of the problem is our throw away society. I see ne need or use for plastic sofa bottles, and I think water in bottles for $1 for a 16 oz. drink of tap water is strange. Bottled water has a place for use in emergencies, but really how hard is it to take a stainless steel reuseable bottle?I dont trust the plastic industry any more than I trust any corporate industry telling me how good their product is. Remember I am a smoker. I have been lied to by experts. While I will agree that smoking is bad and causes a bunch of health problems, I don't agree that I smoked because of Joe Camel. Or the fact the Lucy and Desi smoked. But I am getting off the topic-plastic.I think plastic has it uses, medically it used for good. Storage good- Furniture -good use sometimes. Where I get the most angry is the use in food packaging- I still don't understand why we need so much packaging in produce- Food service, when there are so many good alternatives. Whatever happened to Coffee stirrers made from wood? Better yet bamboo- a very abundant resource, sustainable. I dont have a problem with melmac, but I do have a problem with say for instance styrofoam plates. And while I am on a rant here- What is up with those disposable diapers? When I was a baby cloth was the only thing that touched my butt. And my poor mom washed those things whether or not they had a washer. I know I am not making much sense, but I think the problem is - US the consumers we have gotten soft,and want everything handed to use on a plastic platter- easy way of doing things- that is what fuels the plastic industry.

John Costigane
John Costigane

Hi Beth,My bugbear is the unthinking use of plastic packaging in particular, as it is the most obvious offender. Landfill, and the more recent EfW Incineration, are direct results of its unsustainable uses.Zero Waste, for me, is an attack on the associated throwaway attitude where no thought is given to the waste produced, by supermarkets mainly.Sustainable plastic, in the true sense, would produce little waste and help end the throwaway society.Health issues are worth addressing and I fully support your posts on the matter. BisPhenol A, and the heat associated with baby's milk bottle, form a dangerous cocktail.The ACC seem to live in cloud cuckoo land judging by their recent forum where Mrs Green hosted, giving the Zero Waste perspective. The questions were so loaded as to prevent proper and full discussion on relevant matters. This only indicates that they have lost the argument.

Tameson
Tameson

I think the biggest problem with plastic is that it stays around forever and isn't laterally recyclable. So when we use plastics frivolously it ends up in a big swirl in the ocean.I think there is a place for plastics in this world. I certainly think they've done a world of god for the medical and information industries, and I personally would not want to live in a world without computers, IV lines or waterproof boots (especially this summer - my god is it ever going to stop raining?).I do trust people to tell the truth, alas all too often I am mislead and deceived, but I still beleive that it is everone's duty to be honest with themselves and the people around them, both in business, and personally.If I could ask a plastic professional a question, I'd like to know why plastics aren't more widely recyclable, or why they haven't developed more/better plastics that are.And as far as what role I think they should play in fixing the horrible mess plastics have gotten us into...well, my inner Mom tells me they should fix it. Seriously. They should buy some boats and fish the oceans for plastic, melt it down into something that isn't going to fit down some bird's belly. They should find a new use for the old plastics sitting around forever, maybe computer keys or waterproof boot liners. They should put their R&D dollars into finding plastics that can be recycled indefinitely, andthey should raise thier prices to fund all this. Yes - that's right. Raise the prices. The more expensive something is the less of it we will use. The more money they make the more thay can put toward clean up and R&D. It's win-win.

Eco-Chris
Eco-Chris

Hi Beth and others :) Here's my input:What do you see as the major problems with plastic? They are here forever. And the concern of the toxicity of them. What uses for plastic (if any) are necessary and beneficial to society? plastics are beneficial to a lot of aspects of our culture. I'd say medical, technology, transportation. Can we live without plastics in those areas? Sure. Do we want to? No. The thing is, the majority of the uses could be replaced by something biodegradable or more earth friendly. I'm no expert on medical grade plastics but I'd think that there is a way to make those out of soy or something. Would you like to see a world without any plastic at all? What would that look like? I don't know if it's possible for no plastic at all. We've started down the road, plastic has a place in our lives, it just needs to be quarentined. A world without plastic would look like glass jars, and bamboo computer casing, cars that weigh a ton, with sturdy frames to protect the passengers, and of course they'd run on biofuel. There would be cornstarch popcorn and corn starch styrofoam holding our shipments secure, paper only bags at the grocery stores, soy based biodegradable plastics instead of cellophane. Do you trust the plastics industry to tell you the truth about their products? Why or why not? No. I think as a whole, large corporations can't be trusted. They have too much at stake. Do you trust the American Chemistry Council to tell you the truth? no opinionWhat questions would you ask a plastics professional if you could?WHy can't you just make soy based plastics? What role do you think the plastics industry should play in solving the environmental problems associated with plastic? The heaviest role they can manage. So should the consumers and everyone in between for that matter. Thanks for all you do!

Angie
Angie

The thing that bothers me the most about plastic is how much of it is just a waste. Plastic bags to hold units of blood at the blood bank? Great, do it, it's worth it. Giant impenetrable plastic clamshells wrapped around a product like a USB drive? I'm much less happy about that.To me, where there is an alternative, we should be minimizing our use of (and reliance on) plastic.My main concerns are (1) persistence in the environment and (2) possible leaching of chemicals into our bodies from things like food wraps (or from things like fish that eat plastic in the sea).I definitely don't trust industry to tell us the truth. They have a profit motive to, say, fund one type of study but not another.

pigbook1
pigbook1

1) Same as you, the fact that once it is created it doesn't disappear.2) medical, and safety equipment seem like the most obvious, but I am sure there are others3)I don't know that a world without plastic would be smart, plus I don't imagine computers will ever stop running the world now that we have let them start4)no, but I don't really trust any industry to tell me the whole truth if it cuts into their profits5)ditto6)I don't have many questions, I guess I figure they do their job and I do mine?7)and integral, from the development forward if they really want to focus on the impact they have, but I am not sure they doHonestly I still think our(society) consumption is the biggest problem in the plastic cycle

Amber
Amber

I think I agree with you on the major problems with plastic - the prevalence of a non-biodegradable, potentially toxic substance that can harm wildlife and maybe people, too.There are some medical uses of plastic that are probably necessary, or at least would be very difficult without plastic. IV tubing springs to mind as something that would be hard to replicate without plastic.I would certainly like to see a world with much LESS plastic than we have. I think it would involve people taking more responsibility for bringing their own...whatever. Dishes, cutlery, bags, napkins, just everything. I don't trust the industry to tell the complete truth. I'm not sure it's in their best interest. I don't think they're so much lying as they are putting a positive spin on the products they make. And of course they do - it represents their livelihood. They have a particular bias, and I recognize that.