plastics made it possible

plastics at sea
I was, as they say, bottle-fed. Whether the reasons for this are nestled in the broad cosmology of early ’70s feminist body liberation think or in my own distractible nature, I do not know. It’s not one of those things I’ve had cause to sit my mother down to talk about — until now. And whether you took the teat or got the nipple cheat, this concerns you, too.

You see, we share a world of slowly dissolving plastic that is breaking down into flaky particles and getting all over. Anyone who’s ever cleaned up an empty lot or stream bank knows what I’m talking about. Those old bags just turn to dust. Polyethylene dust.

Whether or not human civilization musters through the coming centuries, two of our contributions willhome without you meaningfully influence the continued development of those living organisms outlasting us: nuclear waste and plastic.

That is just one of the revelations postured by the recently published, The World Without Us.

The telltale blue plastic Wal-Mart bags, as ubiquitous as they have become across the mesquite-ruled ranches along the interstates of Texas are known in some less-sensitive circles as West Texas Snow. Perhaps if we hadn’t poisoned all the prairie dogs the thorned ones wouldn’t be tangled colored wraps and the bags would be floating free over grassland prairie as God intended. To where exactly? Same place we used to dump our nuclear and military waste: “our” ocean. There they could join the rest of their kin.

Write Kathy Marks and Daniel Howden of The Independent:

A “plastic soup” of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States, scientists have said. …

Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer and leading authority on flotsam, has tracked the build-up of plastics in the seas for more than 15 years and compares the trash vortex to a living entity: “It moves around like a big animal without a leash.” When that animal comes close to land, as it does at the Hawaiian archipelago, the results are dramatic. “The garbage patch barfs, and you get a beach covered with this confetti of plastic,” he added.

Not only does plastic make up 90 percent of all ocean trash, trapping and killing untold sea animals and birds, the waste also finds its way, justly, back to us.

Hundreds of millions of tiny plastic pellets, or nurdles – the raw materials for the plastic industry – are lost or spilled every year, working their way into the sea. These pollutants act as chemical sponges attracting man-made chemicals such as hydrocarbons and the pesticide DDT. They then enter the food chain. “What goes into the ocean goes into these animals and onto your dinner plate. It’s that simple,” said Dr Eriksen.

But there are many, many ways we ingest plastic. Like baby bottles.

You want to sterilize those bottles, right? Get them boiling good. Well, you are actually making a bad situation worse.
Hot fluids increase the transmission of chemicals linked to infertility and cancer up to 55 times, increasing the amount we take in. This goes for you tea and coffee drinkers out there using plastic-lined cups, too, by the way. So which bottles are safe? Try Umbra on that one. I’ll stay in the broad view.

So, here we are. Another spectacular mess loose on the planet and in our bodies. Another example of science moving faster than the forces of critical thought and reasonable restraint.

Over the years, I have written a lot about nuclear power and radioactive waste — of the hundreds of thousands (and even millions) of years these radionuclides will continue to alter our environment. Here is a second looming challenge. I can only wonder how these tons on tons of plastics will influence life with or without us.

The tides (and very our pulse) demand an answer of us. It may be time to consider that canvas tote on sale at HEB, after all.

2 responses to “plastics made it possible

  1. For a couple of years, I lived down the street from Theo Colborn (whose daughter, by the way, put my dog’s head back together again after he was kicked by a horse…) Anyway, I learned more about plastics and endocrine disruptors than I ever wanted to know, just from conversations with her and whatnot. Check out her book Our Stolen Future, and her website,


  2. howdy, I have been boycotting “disposable” plastic products for 18 months. Started cos I hated what it was doing to environmnet but as I find out more, worry about what it might be doing for me. I have sourced lots of plastic free alternatives. You might find them useful. go to


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