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, November 22, 2008

Week 12: PP (#5)

So, here it is...the 3 month plastic collection:

What do you think? Here are a few observations so far...
  • I have consumed the contents of 25 snack bar packages.
  • I have collected 26 lids and 39 caps of varying shapes and sizes.
  • I have struggled with the new knowledge that a thin layer of plastic coats a ton of stuff I've been tossing out (rice milk cartons, just about all labels, and pasta boxes, to name a few). So, I'm kind of feeling like a pansy.
  • In total, I have collected 501 plastic items. (In 90 days!)
All righty then--let's look at PP, or Polypropylene. I don't think many of us really think about PP on a daily basis. I mean, I don't...until I recently discovered that my nemesis, THE DRINKING STRAW is made from polypropylene! Drinking & PP? I see all sorts of sick middle school jokes stemming from this...

Anyone have any idea what straws used to be made of? Yes, wax & paper, but even before then. I'll give you a hint: it has to do with the NAME. Give up? It is very likely that drinking straws used to be made from...straw. I know. It boggles the mind. Given that we devote our world wheat production (600 million tons in 2007) to things like bread, pasta, fried chicken, donuts & beer, it is understandable why the original drinking straw got the shaft. After all, you can't make beer from PP. Ah, the jokes.

Polypropylene is basically a beaded necklace of propylene gas molecules, which is turned into powder and then pellets/nurdles and then whatever you want from there. . You may remember polypropylene from such films as:
  • The Margarine Falcon
  • One Flew Over the Yogurt Container
  • Dr. Propylene: How I learned to stop worrying and love the AstroTurf
  • Requiem for a Drinking Straw.
  • Sisterhood of the Travel Mug Lid
  • Raiders of the Lost Carpet Backing
  • All About Flip Top Caps
  • In the Heat of the Long Underwear
  • 12 Angry Food Labels
  • The Suture Redemption
  • There Will Be Pasta Bags
  • Candy Wrapper Named Desire
  • The Treasure of the Rubik's Cube Stickers
  • The Magnificent Medicine Bottle
  • Eternal Tupperware of the Spotless Mind
  • Million Dollar Baby Diaper
  • The Lord of the Kitchen: The Fellowship of the Appliances
  • Car Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Durable Interiors
  • No Country for Photo Sleeves
...Just to name a few.

But let's talk about AstroTurf for just a bit. I've been sick all weekend and am still not feeling great, so I promise this won't take long.

It's plastic grass....PLASTIC GRASS. See, I feel like I've always known what AstroTurf was because Putt-Putt golf was a part of my childhood. What I did not know is that synthetic grass was invented in the decade of plastics (the 1950's) by 2 guys from a little company that invented saccharine in 1901. They're called Monsanto...ever heard of them? Anyway, a subsidiary of Monsanto known as Chemstrand put their noses to the grindstone to develop this plastic grass specifically for urban playing fields. So, their first installation of "Chemgrass" happens in 1964 at the Moses Brown School, a college prep school in Providence, RI. Something tells me that a name like "Chemgrass" might not sell as well today as it did back then. A couple of years later it is installed in the Astrodome in my hometown of Houston, TX and finds a new name: AstroTurf.

I had a hard time finding anything substantial on the economic feasibility of recycling PP, but the Australians seem to be working on that. As with most, if not all plastics, PP can really only be downcycled into other plastic products. However, with a little creativity one can create some pretty interesting pieces of functional art from polypropylene rope. Check this out and have a nice day.


beyesn said...

Sunnye -

I love the "Meltdown Chair" art. For some more really cool "pastic" art, check out the work of artist Tara Donovan here:

Sunnye said...

Hi there! Did you read the earlier post prompted by your comments? You really got me thinking about SPI (whether you intended it or not!) ; )
YES--I am planning on going to see Donovan's work at the ICA in Boston here in the next few weeks. Thanks!

beyesn said...

Yes, I saw the outburst post my earlier comment caused! Didn't mean to cause you to work so hard. Glad I got you thinking. I was merely pointing out that there is a "grey in between", not just black or white.

Sunnye said...

Beysen, do I know you?
Don't answer that--seriously...don't.
The mystery is good because that way my responses won't be biased!
I COMPLETELY agree with you regarding the whole black & white thing. In fact, I believe that everything is gray because everything is connected. There is no real way to separate myself & my actions from actions or decisions made by people in farmer in Mongolia or or a stock broker in Manhattan.

So, I'm just continuing to wrestle with all of this information and PLEASE don't apologize for making me work too hard. I'm just thankful for the dialogue...keep commenting!