Plastic is Fantastic

How fantastic is plastic?

No seriously, what would we do without plastic?

How Earth would look like without them? Like this?

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New Zealand. Photo from the author of this blog.

Instead of this?

Landfill
Dryden, Ontario, Canada. Photo from Dhscommtech at English Wikipedia

HOOOO How horrible would that be?

We all love our food wraps, tooth brushes, plastics knifes and forks, chairs, computers, cars, shoes, pens, straws, shopping bags or our favourite THE plastic drinking bottles… Especially when they escape our bins and turn the landscapes into wastescapes.
Some crazy scientists are trying to make us change our addiction to plastic and change our world swimming waste by making what?? Bioplastics, compostable plastics which biodegrade in a short period of time… Puff really? How dare them!!!
They think that making plastic from starch, corn or sugar and water will cure our compulsive Idontgiveadamf***aboutpolluting disorder?
What a funny creature these scientists!!!

Our ancestral king plastic made of petroleum is so powerful that not even bacteria can break it to make him biodegradable. We have created this magnificent soooo perfectly that it would take a minimum of 450 years to actually break down a plastic bottle. Because its composition (Synthetic polymers) is not even found in nature, nature doesn’t know how to eat it, bacteria (remember the super soldiers in my composting post) don’t even know what to do with them. The bonds between every single plastic cells is so strong that bacteria can’t do their job (they usually eat natural polymers like cellulose in plants). The only way our super stars can degrade is with the action of the sun and… time. So eventually in hundreds of years our plastic bottles will break into small pieces, like mermaids’ tears, and cover the surface of earth…

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Mermaid’s Tears. Photo from Watersshannon05

And because we tend to bury everything in the ground, the sun can’t even degrade them, so we can leave this amazing heritage to our greta-great-great grandchildren, engraved in mother Earth.

Did you know that every single pieces of plastic made, still exist!!! If Christopher Columbus had a plastic tooth brush it would still be somewhere probably drifting between Europe and the US.

And on top of that, since those microplastics don’t go anywhere they are eaten by animals. In the ocean, Copepodes (zooplankton) consume tiny mermaids’ tears, nemo eats copepodes, tuna eats nemo and guess what? Mister tuna finishes in your plate… How cool is that? Not only we can swim with plastics but we even get to eat it and enjoy the nutritious benefits of petroleum. Maybe one day we will evolve to actually process it and a spoon will come out of our rear ends.

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Bioaccumulation. Photo from the author of this blog.

But maybe not, some Greensters decided to change the life circle of our king and THEY  introduced this new species made of natural elements that can be digested by microorganisms. But because they didn’t master the biodegradable technique and toxins are still released in nature, they had to come up with a new idea. So the biodegradable plastics, doesn’t mean that it will dissolve completely, it just that they decay more rapidly with light and oxygen because they contains some additives… Don’t worry we are safe, they are still made of petroleum, and don’t always transform into harmless tiny pieces, and they also leave some toxins behind…

But we have to be careful with those compostable plastics… Those are terrible!! They completely go back to the land into reusable nutrients for plants and animals, boom!! Gone in a couple of months!!

The cornstarch molecules absorb water, swell up and break into small fragments that the super soldiers digest. Since those bioplastics come from plants, they don’t produce an increase in carbon dioxide when they break down, and they produce 70% less greenhouse gases when they degrades in landfills. Seriously! They don’t even maintain the funky blanket around the planet that will make summer all year around (cf my post on climate change).

Greensters are going crazy… Did you know that a 18 years old American dude made sustainable building insulation from potatoes? That a company in Italy, Novamont, opened the first plant in the world to make a chemical compound, called bio-butanediol, used in the production of plastics with sugar and water? Ho ho ho and also, did you know France became the first country in the world to ban plastic plates, cups and utensils (effective in 2020)? Seriously they gonna make us use aluminum forks and we gonna have to wash dishes again!!! Bloody French!!!

Fortunately the plastics we have created, since Ivory became not fashionable anymore, will surround us for hundreds of years. Considering a small country like the UK uses 8 billions disposable plastic bags each year and considering we usually use a plastic on average for 12 min and then we release it in the wild, we have some time before it changes…

The best is, until the majority of human beings turn into Greensters and start to care about the environment, or decide to reuse plastics or even worse stop using plastic at all, then we will still be able to see those colorful magnificent floating around, flying with the wind and entering the blood system of our children.

If you feel that you haven’t seen enough plastic in a while, just look at this mockumentary!!! You’ll get to see how a plastic bag can survive in our tough world.

A quick feel good story from an irreducible Greenster

Have you heard about the Seacleaner?
A crazy greenster, Yvan Bourgnon, decided to get rid of plastics in the ocean and is building a unique boat, to collect plastics and allow scientists to conduct research on board:
– Quadrimaran, 60m long, 49 m width
– 2*50m long mats to sail + a giant kite
– Solar panels will produce all energy on board
– At the back, 1.5m deep harrows will tackle the sea to collect plastics, it’s a mix of a harvester and a snow plow
– Big crane on board to collect large pieces of plastics like ghost nests
– Capacity storage of 600 m3

Woaw maybe scientists and Greensters can actually make a difference…

Top photo from the author of this blog.

 References:

Barnes, D. K. A. et al. (2009). Accumulation and fragmentation of plastic debris in global environments. Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, 364,(1526), pp. 1985-1998. doi: 10.1 098/rstb.2008.0205

Cózar, A. et al. (2015) Plastic Accumulation in the Mediterranean Sea. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0121762. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0121762

Hopewell, J. et al. (2009). Plastics recycling: challenges and opportunities. Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, 364,(1526), 2115-2126. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2008.0311

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