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July 09, 2012

Plasticity Rio '12

(OK it's been a while, so shoot me :-)   )

Again on plastics and the environment, my favorite blogging topic.  The UN conference Rio+20 Earth Summit just completed in, well.. Rio.  They held many side events, one of which was directly related to plastics and was called Plasticity Rio '12.

A few important things to note.  Here, the world's leading environmentalists are discussing plastics issues and from our industry you barely hear a whisper of it. Too bad.
Now I'm in an odd place finding myself agreeing with many points made. Anyone who has read my blogs knows I love to poke fun at ignorant environmentalists who take the simplistic attitude of 'plastics are evil'.  There's almost no one I enjoy tweaking than those folks.

On the other hand, I am an environmentalist. There... I said it.  I even have the credentials:
- Working in recycling industrial waste plastics to value added materials as a consultant (diverting landfill scrap to something useful).
- Was one of the original founders of the SPE Environmental Division (Recycling Div at the time)
- Owned a compounding company producing engineering plastics alloys from scrap feedstocks (Example; PET bottle scrap with Polycarbonate CD scrap into high end alloy sold to Bailey Mfg for auto bumpers)
- Have a recycling technology patent for bonding scrap tire rubber into plastics blends, successfully commercialized, and named a top ten new material by Design News. (Example; Replaced virgin PVC on Rubbermaid step stool non-skid covers with a blend of 40% scrap rubber, 20% scrap milk bottle HDPE and 40% scrap eva from bottle cap liners.)
- Spoken worldwide about scrap polymer environmental issues.

I'm not happy with industry talking heads who never met a plastic they didn't like. We're not industry spokespeople, we get to say what we belive. But I HATE ignorant environmentalists who just say plastics are evil!

Why? Mainly because our ubiquitous plastics are simply irreplaceable as a material in general. Of course there are many BAD plastics applications that are wasteful and bad for the environment, but I think for every bad one, there are hundreds of plastics applications that have no better environmental alternative.

As an example, the entire global warming debate. I read that humanity has modified something like 30 or 40% of the land's surface into farms, cattle land, etc. adversely affecting global climate.  Now if global climate concern is an issue of yours, then you should be supporting the vast majority of plastics usage, because the alternative would simply probably double that number.

Imagine a world without plastics. A lot of environmentalists try to, but the ones I've read ALL get it wrong.
- Imagine if there were NO plastics in clothes or shoes. What would people wear. Leather and cotton derived products!
- Imagine no plastics for manufacturing. What would be the replacements? Mainly wood (there go the trees!) and metal. Less efficient manufacturing and heavier products means more manufacturing pollution, more shipping pollution!

Virtually everything now made in plastic faces serious environmental consequences if switched to a alternative IF it was done on a worldwide scale.

I'm just touching on the tip of the iceberg here.

Now there ARE reasonable environmentalists, but they can be hard to find! :-)  But I met one over the phone recently which bring me back to Plasticity Rio '12.

Doug Woodring, of the Ocean Recovery Alliance, www.oceanrecov.org, is one such reasonable environmentalist in my book. Deemed so by one simply quote of his from Rio that started with "Plastic is great for many uses..."  That alone makes Doug alright in my book.

Doug is one of the founders of Plasticity Rio '12, which Plastics.com intended to sponsor but sadly late timing and technical difficulties prevented it. Plasticity strove to bring industry and concerned environmentalists togther to discuss solutions to many of our industry's problems. No blind hate, no 'just get rid of it, no "it's evil", just here are the problems, what can we do?  I really like it!

So hat's off to Doug and Plasticity Rio '12 for their worthwhile work on all our behalfs. I'm not sure what the future is for Plasticity as it was tied to that one event, but I'll be contacting Doug and I hope it continues into the future.  If it does Plastics.com will be there supporting them.











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