Thursday, 27 September 2018

A Plea for Plastics

Having newly started as the Museum Engagement Officer at MoDiP, I knew the job would have a strong focus on the significance of plastics, but I didn’t realise quite how this would change my everyday perception of the material and my attitude towards it.

With a background of conservation and a love for all things natural, surely, I would feel like a fish out of water? Little did I know…

Who knew? That Plastics can be natural and/or derived from organic material.

Who knew? That Plastics are sourced, used and reused sustainably on many levels.

Who knew? That Plastics represent the democratic material group – accessible for all.

With this positivity in mind, I am starting this role with an ethical, upbeat spring in my step, relishing the opportunity to spread the word.  I even wrote a poem about it:

  Plastics of Our Time

Plastic is natural

Rubber and amber

Come take a gander

Plastic is veggie

Cotton, cane and corn

Made from this form

Plastic is artful

Dress and accessary

Design a necessity

Plastic is useful

Essential…and flighty

Please use it wisely

Everywhere I go now, I can’t help but notice plastic - the use, the aesthetics, the essential need for it every day, everywhere for everybody.  Instead of the negative narrative that plastics have attracted of late (due to our own thoughtless, throwaway culture of single use plastic), a new positive picture is gradually being painted.  Yes, as humans, we mess things up, but also, as humans, we make things better and learn from our mistakes. 

One thing is for sure, we are essentially creative beings, and plastic is something that has to be created. Every plastic item has to be thought up, designed and produced. The only restriction of making items out of plastic, is the limit of our imagination. 

So, let’s celebrate acetate, bask in the Bakelite and party on in all things PVC…!

Celebrate Acetate with these crazy, colourful shoes.

Bask in the Bakelite of this illuminated, darning aid from the 40s.

Party on in PVC – in fact it is just the hidden ‘spacers’ on these glasses that are PVC, but they are crucial for holding it all together while on the dance floor.

To arrange a visit – whether you’re an internal or external group – please email:

Julia Pulman (Museum Engagement Officer)

Monday, 17 September 2018

w-Rap: a plastics serenade for a synthetic century

What do you think of plastics? Today they are much in the press. David Attenborough’s Blue Planet touched a nerve and it has become fashionable to go plastics free. There are guides to plastics free festivals, plastics free sports events, and plastics free parties. Archers’ characters, Fallon and Harrison, have had their plastics free wedding and Princess Eugenie is planning hers right now.  But we have had plastics for over 100 years and they have become fundamental to the world we live in. Is giving them up really an option and are we in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

The truth is that plastics have changed the world for better as well as for worse. For example, the simple plastic bucket has dramatically improved the life expectancy of the 46% of the world’s population who still don’t have access to piped water at home. Even single use plastics have some advantages over traditional materials. Their use in hospitals cuts down infection and although some make the case for sterilising equipment, this uses lots of water and energy. Paradoxically, if what concerns you is energy consumption or climate change, it can be argued that plastic bags are more eco-friendly than more traditional alternatives. Their manufacture requires little energy compared with paper bags. Plastics are made from a waste product of the petrol industry and do not require the cutting down of forests. For the same amount of bags, it takes one lorry to deliver plastic and seven to deliver paper bags.  In 2011 the UK Environmental Agency published a lifecycle assessment of a range of bags and concluded that high-density polyethylene bags cause less damage to the environment than any other kind of bag. 

The performance will include soprano Brttiany Soriano and turntablist Ole Rudd (above).

The renowned composer, Karen Wimhurst who happens also to live in Dorset, has become so fascinated with the plastics debate that she has written a musical-theatre work ‘w-RAP: a plastics serenade for a synthetic century’ which explores what is good and what is bad about plastics. It is having its world premiere at the Lighthouse, Poole, on Wednesday 26 September. The performance will be followed by an opportunity for the audience to share their views on plastics.  Why not come along? Tickets (£5 + booking fee) available at

Susan Lambert (Head of MoDiP)