O! newsletter #112


No doubt, we're gonna eat it!
5 grams of plastic… it is the amount each human currently ingests per week. It basically corresponds to a credit card. Micro-particles of plastic can be found in the fish we consume, in processed food, in the water we drink, in the air we breathe. You may have noticed how the media have been seasoning the word ‘plastic’ with every sauce they could these past weeks? Long litany of the various disorders created by a massive production of polymers, from the vortex in open sea generated by a soup of plastic waste, to the so-called biodegradable plastic bags still dandy after 3 years in nature, to plastic residues found at the top of the Everest or in the Greenland ice field, 40 kilos of plastic in the stomach of a beached whale… In the end, our 5 grams are nothing! But stop it, it is alarming and we are saturating. matériO would like to remind few essential truths:

• Plastic is fantastic! Poly-ethylene, Poly-styrene, Poly-urethane, Poly-stuff… This type of material with Greek shepherd’s names is indeed fantastic. A matter that is ready to adopt any shape, any use, any constraint, and offers resistance, lightness, strength, low production prices… it is poly-extraordinary!

• Plastic is catastrophic! Or rather, what humans are doing with plastic is catastrophic and mortiferous, as polymers, even if having all the qualities we previously discussed, can now be found everywhere. We are producing 10 tons of plastic per second, for judicious and relevant uses as well as the most trivial and fleeting uses, without caring about what they will become… So easy, so cheap…

• Bio-sourced, false good idea! It is not because a polymer is produced using corn, green algae or even orange peels that it will ultimately go back to nature that easily. Bio-sourced does not mean biodegradable. It only means that the necessary carbon-based molecules have been found elsewhere. Bio-sourced is in the end the promise of keeping on polluting the planet once fossil-based resources will be depleted.

• Biodegradable, it is debatable! First, is it clever and responsible to consider that we can now throw away stuff without caring about what our waste will become as they would magically disappear? Second, will waste really disappear? Biodegradability is a ’trash’ notion, within which we throw polymers that will actually rapidly ‘disappear’ to become non visible - however toxic and long-lasting - micro-particles as well as polymers that require very specific conditions to degrade themselves… conditions difficult to gather in real life.

• Recycled, problem postponed! An idea that seems smart, RE-cycling, RE-using, RE-duce waste, preserve RE-ssources. Energy and matter have been invested to produce, let’s maximize this initial investment… but the loop is today not infinite nor trivial and we still have to imagine the happy end.

So… it is urgent to stop deluding ourselves. Let’s exercise our critical mind to use with parsimony, frugality and intelligence the materials and energy we have at our disposal, and let’s get out of the ’make-use-waste’ trilogy. The only real ‘eco-plastic’ is the one we do not use, the best waste the one we do not produce.