Folks, this is about my "consumption" of plastic over the next year. I'm looking at what I have, what I buy, and why I seem to need this hundred and fifty year old man-made concoction more than my mother's fried chicken.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Week 8: I SPI something...PLASTIC.

I'd like to interrupt this regularly scheduled program to spotlight recent comments from the last 2 posts. I certainly don't mind small businesses making a plug for their product on my blog as long as it seems in line with what I am writing about...BUT what about comments that stink (ever-so-slightly) of burning plastic?

Comments from author "beyesn" directly or indirectly reference SPI, the Society of the Plastics Industry. I have taken this directly from their website:
Founded in 1937, SPI is the plastics industry trade association representing the third largest manufacturing industry in the United States. SPI's member companies represent the entire plastics industry supply chain, including processors, machinery and equipment manufacturers and raw materials suppliers. The U.S. plastics industry employs 1.1 million workers and provides nearly $379 billion in annual shipments. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., SPI promotes business development via a suite of commercial services and trade shows, fosters the sustainable growth of plastics in the global marketplace, provides industry representation in the public policy arena and communicates the industry’s contributions to society and the benefits of its products."
I hate to read into this, but me thinks I caught the attention of a plastic lobbying group? I'm flattered, really. Obviously I don't know what association (if any) "beyesn" has with SPI, but the second comment about bioplastics falling into #7 category, triggered the lifting of my left eyebrow and the drooping of the right...

But let's talk about B's first comment on 10.22: "Wine makers are choosing PET as the more sustainable material choice over traditional glass! Check it out: Plastics Industry Blog."

Sustainability is a tricky word, but let's see if I can take a crack at it within the context of this particular SPI blog post. Plastic bottles (within our current system of how we determine what is "economical") are most certainly more economically sustainable than glass bottles. And yes, it may be proven that the creation and transport of virgin plastic has a smaller carbon footprint than virgin glass. If you want some numbers & conversions for that--here is a great article from Ask Pablo. However, I keep coming back to this image...and then this one. And then, this one and this one.
"Plastics’ flexibility and adaptability enable them to be used in so many different ways that make our world better, safer and more fun."
I would love to hear a rep from SPI repeat these words from their website to the children pictured here. We need some REAL and TOTAL life cycle cost analysis, please! However, unless we strap GPS tracking chips on every single plastic item we produce, true life cycle cost accounting is incredibly daunting. But still, I want to know what the true social and environmental costs of plastic wine bottles (and needless to say all other plastics)?

Royte mentions in her book, Bottlemania (p. 171)
the logic of manufacturers not being blamed for any negative effects because its a consumer "choice". (This was eerily close to a statement I posted last week! I promise Elizabeth, I was only to page 77 when I wrote that statement about cigarettes & Hummers...but wanted to give you credit nonetheless.) Would SPI throw their hands up and shrug at the mess surrounding those two children because "Hey, we just make the stuff."

I hope all the christians out there will forgive me for taking Matthew 7:15-20 and slipping it into this context, but for some reason, the last verse kept fluttering about in my mind...
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

When a piece of fruit rots, it returns back into earth's various nutrient cycles that sustain all life. SPI and all of its members need to think about their "fruit" and the oily seed from which it came. Plastic industries cannot wash their hands of their product once it flies off the shelf. They need to see their products through from beginning to end. And the end needs to result in nourishment (not worthless & harmful waste) for the earth...and not to mention, my guestroom.

Last notes on SPI...
Take a look at their official position on global climate change.
Take a look at their official position on environmental health & safety in the workplace...especially the last paragraph.

Closing questions for beyesn. What interest, if any, do you think SPI might have in moving beyond mere "compliance" with environmental regulations?

And...who does SPI's greenwashing? (because the laundry still stinks)...

If you do catch wind of my response to your comments, please know that I mean no personal attack to you as a person, but I am suspicious of your reference to a "blog" authored by SPI. Whatever your association, I do hope that you will continue to wrestle with your own plastic use and our obsession with it as a nation. I hope that both of us can be united in our continuous questioning of both sides of the plastic argument.

Thank you for making me think.

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