19 March 2011

Post 357: Plastic

Plastic: A Toxic Love Story by Susan Freinkel. ISBN: 978547152400 (eGalley - Publishes April 18, 2011).

Freinkel did an interesting experiment in which she wrote down everything she touched that was plastic in a day. It's quite illuminating. In fact, I've probably touched about 20 items made of plastic or that have plastic components and it's only 10AM. Here's my list, in no particular order:
  • Pillow (filled with poly-fibers)
  • Coverlet
  • Pajama pants
  • T-shirt
  • Underwear
  • Menstrual pad (sorry, but it's honest)
  • Toilet seat
  • Tooth brush
  • Toothpaste tube
  • Hair tie
  • Coffee grinder
  • Coffee pot
  • Cell phone (aka alarm clock)
  • Birth control pill packaging
  • Plastic coated box for a day-by-day calendar
  • Kitchen counter
  • Trashcan
  • Carpet
  • Linoleum floor
  • Nail polish (my fingernails are painted at the moment)
  • The Wall (and anything else painted)
  • This computer and its cords

This is only after about an hour of being awake and most of those I touched before I even got out of bed. There are some days where I wake up and I reach for my eReader and don't move unless I have to pee. There are things I'm probably leaving off just because I forgot I touched them or I touched them with something other than my hands and therefore I was less aware of it. If I had taken a shower this morning or eaten breakfast I would have increased the number of things I touched drastically. There would have been the refrigerator, the bath tub, my shampoo and conditioner bottles it comes in, my hair brush, my towel, the shower curtain.

Plastic is in almost everything we touch and interact with, yet only 80 years ago that wasn't true. It is amazing how invasive and adaptable plastic is. And if you asked me which of the objects I mentioned earlier that I feel most guilty about, I would actually have to say my birth control pills.

I don't feel guilty taking them: it's been a blessing not to worry as much about pregnancy and to have shorter and more reliable cycles. But I have always hated how much plastic packaging goes into providing me with reliable birth control. Not only am I given the punch out cardboard/aluminum foil/plastic pack, but every time I fill my script I am also given a brand new sleeve of plastic to keep them in. Those sleeves come with new warning labels on them (made of plastic) and come in a plastic resin coated paper bag with more stickers inside so I can change the days of the week to accurately reflect my pill schedule.

I will say that the off-brand packaging is slightly better than the original Orthotricyclen dial packs (in that awful shade of vaguely flesh-tone pink). At least the plastic sleeves are a little less obvious, a little more travel friendly, and I can tear them up and use the sheets that don't have my prescription info as book marks. But it's still not great. I wish they didn't automatically give me a plastic sleeve when I fill my script, because I really don't need it. Having one is nice, but having 12 is just unnecessary.

I would potentially feel guilty about my cell phone, since the industry encourages us to get a new one every few years, but I've had mine for about 4 years now. I haven't even had to replace the battery yet. It looks crappy, and it has no other function than as a phone,* but I spent $90 on it with the corporate expectation** that I would only use it for a year. There's something wrong with that.

How much plastic have you touched within the first hour or so of your morning? Is there something you feel especially guilty about owning or using? Or do you just not think about it?

My review can be found at Goodreads.
LibsNote: Free review copy provided by Netgalley.
*Okay AND an alarm clock, timer, and very clunky calculator.
**My editor asked me to clarify what I mean by corporate expectation. It means that there is the expectation that the technology will be out-of-date or irrelevant and/or that consumers would want a new phone regardless of the continued functionality of their current model. This mostly applies to electronics, but we see this pattern in car buying and clothing as well.


  1. I hate those little birth control packets, too. They're so needlessly wasteful! Why can't they just give you one and be done with it?

    I have a feeling this post is going to turn into a meme. Here's a list of what all I can remember touching today that was plastic. I dunno what my pillows are filled with, so it will just be obvious things.

    -alarm clock
    -glasses case
    -fridge handle
    -bag the newspaper came in
    -cat's food bowl
    -cat's food scoop
    -dryer start button
    -laundry basket
    -Activia container
    -chair armrest
    -computer monitor
    -computer keyboard
    -computer mouse
    -flash drive
    -Nintendo DS
    -plastic lids used to keep the microwave clean
    -laptop power cord
    -plastic bags/wrappings for bulk rice, toilet paper, soup
    -coat buttons
    -elevator up button
    -sixth floor button
    -paper towel dispenser
    -water fountain
    -door pushbar
    -Transformers packaging

    You can kind of see how my day went, too, which is interesting in and of itself.

  2. I'm fairly certain you touched more plastic than that. It's kind of insidious how much plastic is around us.

  3. Oh, I agree. I have no idea what half my stuff is maded out of. My backpack, for instance, has plastic strap clips, but I'm sure there's probably plastic in the shoulder straps themselves.


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