Saturday, March 29, 2008

Plastic's dirty little secret

I had known for some time now that certain plastics were toxic. PVCs or polyvinyl clorides are very toxic when burned or in liquid state. You know this material used in plumbing pipe and window frames. What I hadn't known was that plastics can degrade to the microscopic level and become a magnet for other toxins. I like everyone else had assumed that plastic materials remained in their complete state until some considerate soul came by and picked them up for disposal whether on the beach or by the side of the road. I was aware of the physical hazards plastics posed to wildlife. One day at work we tried to catch a bird with a plastic net stuck to its' beak. We weren't successful but the bird managed to survive.
A lot of the hazardous materials I deal with are listed as such because they don't breakdown in the environment. I've dealt with PCB's, DDT and many other chemicals but it hadn't occurred to me what the effects from these nastys would be since they are already in the food chain on a microscopic level. And then to add the thought of plastics acting like little toxic magnets concentrating what is already out there. You need to remember since the start of the industrial revolution companies and people have just been dumping their toxic wastes anywhere. Just take it out back and dump it on the ground was a common practice up until the 60's.
Not to add more depressing news to this article but most of our landfills have plastic liners to prevent leakage into the groundwater. Great, putting plastics into a plastic container that will eventually leak. The other method of disposal is by burning. That doesn't seem to be a better solution either. Recycling is great but now I see recyclers don't take all plastics even some with the #1 mark. It would be great to buy and use alternative products but when products come wrapped in large amounts of plastic and are made of plastics.. well you get the picture. Maybe we need some new laws about packaging because we have no control over how things are packaged.
And no I'm not some environmental fanatic. It's just that I realize that we need to get ourselves moving in the right direction. I believe firmly that given half a chance mother nature will take care of herself, but you have to give her the chance.

Toxic Plastic

One last thing - I think I'll be turning out my lights this evening for an hour for the Lights Out around the world. Not that it will make much of a difference but our local power company is going to raise rates.

1 comment:

libhom said...

People need to buy more recycled plastic products as replacements for non-recycled products. There needs to be a bigger market.

The problem is that I only see them at health food stores.