Reduce, Reuse, Reform

Plastics pollute our landscapes and our bodies. Help is on the way.


| November-December 2010



Reduce, Reuse, Reform Image

Geof Wilson

We have a complicated relationship with plastic, despite its omnipresence in our consumer culture. Associated with the cheap and mass-produced, plastic is synonymous with disposability. The very qualities that have made it so perfect for mass production—its protean nature and ability to be reliably molded with heat and pressure into an astonishing variety of shapes and sizes—contribute to our perception of the material as utterly synthetic and machine-made. The word plastic is also used to describe someone who is inauthentic.

Plastic, in other words, is the perfect product for a throwaway, consumer-driven culture that values convenience and affordability over almost everything else.

If all of that, coupled with the enormous heaps of trash piling up on our planet, weren’t unsettling enough, we also have cause to be concerned about the health effects of plastics.

The two components that seem to be the most worrisome for human health are bisphenol-A (BPA) and additives called phthalates, or “plasticizers.”

BPA, which is also found in the resin lining of many food and beverage cans, mimics the hormone estrogen (in fact, the substance was conceived in 1891 as a synthetic form of estrogen) and has been linked to cardiovascular disease and diabetes. There is also concern that BPA may be an endocrine disruptor, which can cause the early onset of sexual maturation (a suspected risk factor for breast cancer) and is most harmful in the early stages of development when, for example, many babies drink from bottles. The FDA, which approved polycarbonate as a food additive in the 1960s, now advises that there is some cause for concern regarding the effect of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate glands of fetuses, infants, and children.

Phthalates, a group of chemicals used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic soft, flexible, and clear, can be found in shower curtains, vinyl flooring, toys (think of teething rings), perfumes, and cosmetics. Phthalates are thought to be endocrine disruptors and are especially of concern with respect to children’s vulnerable, rapidly evolving development and high consumption of food and drink relative to their weight.

terimelton
11/20/2010 4:43:25 PM

I keep trying and trying to get people aware of this man, this company and this machine. PLEASE someone research this and publish it. http://ourworld.unu.edu/en/plastic-to-oil-fantastic/ Mr. Akinori Ito, CEO of Blest Corp. in Japan has this machine working in many "third world countries" yet we can't even get a news article about it here. I keep posting everywhere I can think of but no one ever responds. So do you really care, or just want to complain? This is one part of a viable solution, and would even work on the Pacific and Atlantic plastic islands.