Image credit: plastics by the numbers
It is certainly good to be thinking of banning single use plastic plates and cutlery but why just single use plastic things? Single use most things are unnecessary and therefore bad for the environment. Many, for example, paper cups and plates, consume more energy in their manufacture and transportation than their plastic counterparts. The problem with plastic things begins mainly when they are disposed of inappropriately.
Plastics are now essential materials in our lives that we will never again be able to do without. Indeed, in many ways, they make the world a better place. They have transformed healthcare: think of their impact on sterilisation, pill packaging or heart surgery; they make transport less damaging: over the lifetime of the average car, lightweight plastic parts save around 3,000 litres of fuel; and they have helped to democratise the world, transforming for example public engagement with photography, music, and sport. We need to learn how to live well with plastics, not denigrate them.
You have seemed to downgrade recycling, stating actually correctly, that every time a plastic is recycled it loses a bit but that ignores the fact that any plastic can be beneficially recycled, if only for its calorific value.
Plastics are too valuable to be disposed of carelessly. You need to lead on this. We need a proper recycling system - it needs to be global but we can start it off in the UK, built not, as we have now, on the commercial value of the particular recycled plastic but as part of the Government’s drive to create a carbon neutral world. Plastics are a material group that can help us achieve that. They are being blamed for something that we, all of us including you, as users of plastics, are doing: that is not disposing of them appropriately. We are all at fault but mainly because the facilities to enable us to do so do not exist. You can change that. I would welcome the opportunity to talk to you about this in more depth.
Chief Curator, Museum of Design in Plastics: www.modip.ac.uk
Arts University Bournemouth
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