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Clyde: Is it possible to un-invent plastic?

Time was, we lived without plastics. We survived, but now they are out to get us. The Graduate got the word, but he was too busy out chasing Elaine to pick up on the warning. Lord knows, plastic is not in the Bible, except maybe Colossians 2:21: “Touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using.”

Who would claim they first invented this convenient nemesis? Hermann Staudinger with polymer in 1953 or Alexander Parkes in 1890?

Shamefully, Latin “plasticus” was “to form” a synthetic, non-metallic product from organic compounds by polymerization for commercial use. And we all know its ugly stepsisters: Lucite, Vinylite and Bakelite. When you pitch it out, it all becomes trash. Given, in a heart valve replacement, it is remarkable and irreplaceable. What are you going to do? Ten million Frisbees a year can’t all be thrown away.

You can all rest assured that the attempt to plasticize our nation was not some Yankee underground plot to undermine the King Cotton fortunes of the slave plantations of the South. That came later — with complications that are not biodegradable or forgivable. We united Americans throw out 8.3 billion metric tons a year, 80 percent of which does not go away. Forty-two percent of this is packaging and wrapping. Three-fourths of all plastic squirted out ends up in the landfill.

As Mr. Sinclair told us to say, MRF — material recovery facility —  is for saving scraps gleaned from over 4.5 pounds per person, per day, right here in river city. It’s big, really big — enough plastic floating in the oceans to cover land the size of Argentina ankle-deep.

These gyres have not changed one iota thanks to those lily-livered liberal girls who spent their college days cutting up those six-pack holders so fish won’t get stuck in them.

It’s estimated that 500 million plastic straws per day go down the drain worldwide. How many rollout bins is that, Mr. Behmer? If God meant for us to suck out of straws, he would have given you a proboscis like a moth. No solo cups. Plastic lids and “Steerifoam” are the really bad guys. Some people double bag or use two straws. Soon we will be like the paint-store sign, “cover the earth.” Can the world go on without them? Will we be swimming in plastic pellets?

What ever happened to paper straws with stripes for your birthday or paper pokes for the bag boys, Mr. Hardiman? Will paper cups make a comeback after the Dixie cup that Elvis drank out of just sold for $3,300?

The City Council watchdogs should be more worried about minute plastic filaments in the drinking water.

Plastic surgery has already helped beautiful people look deformed. Cytoplastic and neuroplastic are good if you need it, which is bad.

Plastic Saran Wrap and plastic cinema film have saved a lot of rotten hams. Shrink wrap and lamination kept things, so we can just throw them away later. Laundry bags are so flimsy, you can’t possibly use them again. Can you reuse plastic toothpicks? “Keepsake” plastic signs, key chains, gadgets, gee gaws, doo flochies, body ornaments, plastic tags, labels, silly bands, gauges, stickers and windups could all be signed, sealed and delivered in a Ziploc bag and stored in a plastic tote, taped shut with a tape gun and deported back to China in a container filled with bubble wrap and plastic peanuts.

Locally, Fiber Industries did give a lot of people jobs spinning polyester, dacron and rayon — the fibers of our lives. Ever try sleeping in a plastic bag? Maybe a day without plastics would give us pause for reflection about as much as a day without sunshine. They won’t go away. Let some nice, fired computer CEO reinvent linen. Bring out the flax wheels from the museum. Indigo once accounted for one-third of the exports from the colonies, thanks to Mrs. Pinckney in South Carolina.

It’s your America, if you want to keep it. So think the next time you hear “paper or plastic?”

Clyde is a Salisbury artist.



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