Plastics – Have we bitten off more than we can chew?

Encouraged by the Format themes “trash” and “global effects and impacts” I accepted David Welch’s invitation to debate about consumption. My inspiration – his Plastic Totem in the “Material World” project.

As you engage with the debate, consider the harmful effects of our plastics’ avarice on the world and those who inhabit it:

Washed up plastic pieces

(CC)JanVozenilek: BY, NC, SA (The Midway Journey Project,

Here’s a video that highlights the story perfectly. But be warned, this is both sad and shocking:

MIDWAY : trailer : a film by Chris Jordan from Midway on Vimeo.

Recycling Plastics? My R’s!

Reduce – not likely! The world craves goods made of plastic. Anything that isn’t, don’t worry, we can wrap it!

Reuse – quite difficult! Most plastics degrade relatively quickly, lowering their performance levels, sometimes to dangerous levels. Stabilising chemicals can prolong their lives, but it sounds like “jumping from the frying pan into the fire” if you ask me!

Recycle – brilliant, but. . . ! There are 7 plastic identification symbols(1). At best they’re largely meaningless and at worst deceptive. Categories 3+ are generally not recycled(2). Also, some of the recycling solutions are adding to the problem. Synthetic clothing, ie fleeces, made from recycled plastic, sheds fibres that are distributed to our remotest oceans via washing machine residue(3).

On an individual level, we need robust waste management schemes in place. Most importantly though, do we have the will to be bothered?

The Irony

MIDWAY – Plastic Water from Midway on Vimeo.

 Only humans make waste that nature can’t digest!(4)

As consumers, our desire for plastic is insatiable. At the top of the food chain, we are literally consuming more than we realise!