Monday, December 22, 2008

Don’t buy Plastic products

Well I’m becoming even more concerned at the state of ecological thinking. As I previously wrote in Paradoxes in Sustainable Product Design Life Cycle Analysis LCA would prefer a plastic kettle over a Stainless steel kettle despite the disadvantages of plastics that I listed.

However after a little more reading I realise that it isn’t just the difficulty in keeping the plastic uncontaminated with other types of plastic in recycling that is the issue this is rather a guise. The real issue is the chemical makeup or plastic which is not really suitable for continued reuse the chemical bonds break down so that even if the plastics is separated meticulously into the different types, the resulting recycled plastic is likely to not be as mechanically strong it will lose some of its properties in reprocessing. Coupled to this the effect that UV light has on plastics and you will start to realise that a 10 year old television’s plastic casing is no longer very desirable except in a down cycling stage where it may be used to make a kerb stone or turned into a recycling bin.

You may ask what the problem with down cycling is, well its that this plastic should be reused in another T.V. otherwise the new T.V. needs to have more oil extracted from the ground and processed into new virgin plastic. Oil that we are running very short of and extraction and processing of which adds to the environmental problems.

Plastics are in terms of materials fairly new the plastics revolution erupted in the 1960’s with cheaper disposable goods feeding the affluent baby booming generations that prospered after the struggles of their parents throughout the 1940 and 1950’s due to second world war rationing. Plastics enable new organic shapes to be produced in bright vibrant colours, products were cheaper and fashions started to change more frequently. The advent of mass produced plastics mean that more people could move with the times and follow the design movements of the day unlike post war styles such as Art Nouveau and Deco which were restricted to the upper classes.

The problem is that cheaper products mean that people consume more, cheaper products mean that more of them can be bought, more plastic consumed. Product life spans have tumbled, my grandmother owned an electric iron from the early 1960’s it was given to my mother when ours broke and used right up until the mid 1990’s in fact it still works today except the technology has improved so it is no longer used. But modern irons last between 3 and 5 years from my experience, the technology isn’t the reason for this monumental drop in life expectancy, they aren’t made to last any longer. It’s down to cost people want cheap products and don’t get them repaired it is cheaper on the pocket to buy a new one. But not on the environment…..

No comments: