Greening America: When Science Goes Bad
by Robby Meadows
The title of my article sounds like one of those Gary Larson cartoons where the dinosaurs are sitting around smoking cigarettes and the caption reads “How dinosaurs really went extinct”. But there has been a lot of loose facts and figures floating around and its time I shared our position on it.
Science is for the majority based on fact, observation over time, analysis and documented study and like any set of facts they can be twisted to almost any end. Take the di-hydrogen monoxide story example:
The major component in foam cups is everywhere now…
Di-hydrogen Monoxide is colorless, tasteless, and deadly if inhaled. It is used in the manufacture of foam cups. Its basis is the highly reactive hydroxyl radical, a radical shown to mutate DNA, denature proteins, disrupt cell membranes, and chemically alter critical neurotransmitters. The atomic components of DHMO are found in a number of caustic, explosive and poisonous compounds such as Sulfuric Acid, Nitroglycerine and Ethyl Alcohol.
Oh… did I forget to mention that the chemical abbreviation for Di-Hydrogen Monoxide is H2O? Yes, it is just plain water! Makes me want to add some C2H5OH (the intoxicating component in Tennessee whiskey) to mine and relax as I think about more science gone bad.
The great plastic bag scam.
Recently we have seen/heard of bans on plastic bags even in China. Look at the science and do the math, plastic bags are really not the problem…we are. Thin t-shirt style plastic bags hanging from tree branches or blowing across I-5 in California on a hot summers day are easy to hate. So stop and ask…”how did those bags get there”? The problem is social not chemical, people being careless have created this problem, but people unlike physics can change. We are already doing so without the mandate of government.
If plastic is so bad, why is it OK to make bags using more of it?
This is the approach of most governments to get rid of the thin bags only to use more resources and make the bags thicker. The concept is “reusability”. It is a good concept but based on bad science. Plastics are the easiest to recycle and take less direct energy than any other substrate there is…period. I have literally watched plastic bags being recycled in a small machine and 45 minutes later I watched that same plastic being made into new bags.
Plastic Bags are easy and efficient to recycle.
Here is how it is being done right now for Nashville Wraps Products:
- Collect recycled material from local businesses and from consumer sources.
- Sort recycled material from manufacturing waste.
- Recycling plastic minimizes waste and down-cycling.
- Produce pellets from recycled material.
- Mix recycled material (pellets) into extruder.
- Create new plastic film.
- Create new plastic bags made with recycled material collected and made in the U.S.A.
Also see the blog article: Plastic Bags are easiest to recycle
The polyethylene (PE) t-shirt bags that Nashville Wraps distributes are made with an additive that causes the bags to chemically oxidize to lower and lower molecular weights, become brittle and micro fragment. The fragments are then ingested slowly by microorganisms, ultimately leaving carbon dioxide, water and biomass. Additionally our Encore TM T-sacks are made from an average of 10% Post Consumer recycled plastics (in part bags that were picked up off the beach) and anywhere between 15% and 90% of post industrial recycled plastics. As of this writing all of our domestic plastic bags are made from a minimum of 25% recycled plastics.
Even now new additives are available that actually help the PE molecules bio-degrade. This biodegradation process can take place aerobically and anaerobically. It can take place with or without the presence of light. These factors promote biodegradation even in landfill conditions which are normally not conducive to any biodegradation.
In short, we have solved the science of plastic bags
The rest is up to us as a society. I personally think that we are already becoming more and more aware of the smallest of things like tossing out a bag. As a free and intelligent people we will fix our own problems, change and adjust as we need to and do not need our local governments thinking for us.
ECM Biodegradable additives: ECM Products Overview
Recycled Plastic Bags: Recycled Plastic Bags at Nashville Wraps
I have never thrown away a plastic bag- I would like to see thicker bags and lessen the “double bagging” going on at my local grocer’s store. I can recycle thicker bags more times than thin ones.
Since the coming of these bags, I have not had to purchase trash can liners for my small cans in YEARS. Larger bags fit my larger trash cans. I LOVE large bags.
I use heavy bags from my famous chain bookstore as my own book bags, or as I haul heavy projects to and from my work. Or as can liners when my kids are sick in bed. Thick bags= no holes.
I reuse plastic grocery bags to dispose of my grandkid’s dirty diapers and when I clean out the cat litter.
When all else fails, the ripped bags and bags with holes make GREAT packing material when I mail people stuff. It is lighter in weight than newspaper and costs less to ship a package when using this stuff. And my stuff never arrives broke in transit because it is such a great packaging material.
I consider plastic to be the ultimate most recycled product I use everyday in many ways.
I also recycle paper bags and the brown packing paper I get in shipments, but usually as decorated painted giftwrap and long pieces protect my work surfaces and make great pieces of paper to make my own pattern designs on.
I have been a recycler of bags before it was ever cool. I will always use plastic AND paper bags, and suggest to congress ,that if they ban ANYTHING, that it be themselves. I have no recycle use for “windbags.”
Kendall Morrison says
While your story is interesting it hardly addresses the whole truths. Someone’s mistake about what really is horrible about foam (or polystyrene) is quirky at best; and almost sounds by the omission of any real information that polystyrene is being used safely. I hope of course that you do understand that polystyrene presents a very dangerous set of issues that would be likely best dealt with by banning its use. Polystyrene is a prime example of how industry has done very little on its own to discover the risks to the environment of a very problematic material, its material manufacturing process and disposal (sic).
Many municipalities do not recycle plastic bags and that is a real shame. Most plastic shopping bags are, as you point out easily recyclable, and as cities as large as New York, for example, don’t allow consumers to throw them into the recycling bin (yes NYC’ers are supposed to put the bags in the trash) its nice to know that other cities and companies are doing something other than starting off with a ban. Why ban one perfectly recyclable material when other more dangerous materials such as polystyrene (widely used by school systems) are still not banned? Using wood (paper) can be less toxic but is not a perfect solution either. Unless we manage forrests and actually recycle, cutting down trees to replace plastic bags that could simply be managed more effectively raises red flags with me.
I have experimented with several items made from bio-active plastics any find none of them to bio-degrade very well in aerobic conditions (an oxygenated compost system) so I’m very skeptical of lab results that don’t translate to real life. But some products do seem to show evidence of a little break down. So there is hope.
I would gladly accept a sample of one of your bio-degrade products to be placed in a real world composting environment to see how it fares over a year or two. Will it really break down? How long is the breakdown process? It would be an interesting experiment (if not completely scientific).
Nice to see you are thinking green too. My company is totally overhauling its packaging and shipping with green components which is not as easy as we thought it would be. But we are learning and doing better step-by-step.
I appreciate when vendors give us options and facts to make informed decisions instead of manipulated truths to get their own agenda across. Thank you.
I think it’s great what Nashville Wraps is doing to help recylcle. If everyone does there part it’s really not an issue.
William Green says
Good info–wish you would tackle the Global Warming problem next.
This is excellent information. I do believe we all should be good stewards of what God has given us but I am so tired of the media giving us half truths. Thank you for clearing up a few of those issues.