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Discussion > The New War on Plastics

The first thing is plastic is a hydrocarbon
...burn it at low temperature and it can produce nasties like dioxins
.. but plastic can be burnt SAFELY as a fuel in high temperature incinerators

... It's what most of Europe does ..there are loads of incinerators , that why many places don't have much landfill

But suddenly with the advent of BBC Blue Planet 2 there is a new narrative to appeal to emotion
..Attenborough made out #1 plastic is a big killer of ocean wildlife
#2 implied that plastic microparticles are hitting the food change.

(personally I can't see how plastic microparticles are much different from natural beach coal getting ground up into to small particles)

Feb 20, 2018 at 9:30 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen


#1 It's an Asian thing
82% of Ocean plastic originates from a few rivers in Asia
Europe/US makes up 2% or something
There is a BPF British Plastics Federation PDF

QZ : Asia’s rivers send more plastic into the ocean than all other continents combined

Proper waste disposal services in Asia is the issue
that will sort harm to their ocean wildlife

Feb 20, 2018 at 9:37 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Upto now the media /political narrative is that ONLY thing to do with plastics is recycle them

There has just been a breakout
Eddie Mair’s Radio4 PM prog had a sudden outbreak of sanity
(#1 They’ve done their investigation into St Brendan & Save the Children , and found 3 women saying there were problem in STC.)
#2 “We’re getting people people who say why to don’t we burn plastic ?
We speak to a London councillor whose council does this …”
Wow he was allowed to say this at length
.. Of course Harrabum was brought on
..he ummed and ahhed ‘well you can burn it and generate local heat as well ..bbbut see it still puts out CO2 , so recycling is the key ..blah blah.. the gov advisor says since it puts out more CO2 than gas , we should burn gas today and bury the plastic in landfill to mine later in a day when we have better recycling tech.’
… hmm so he wants use ££s to put plastic in the ground , and then more ££s to get gas to burn today, instead of just burning the plastic , cos we can re-use the plastic in 30 years time

1) He mentioned Carbon Capture ..a fantasy which is never likely to work in reality.
2) he claimed plastic in landfill doesn’t produce CO2
..This is not true cos there are bacteria that feed on plastic, but their effect over 50 years is unquantifiable.

Feb 20, 2018 at 9:42 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

@aplastic_planet (plastic-free campaigners) tweeted
\\ All week on @bbcpm you can hear @RHarrabin answer questions on #plastics
ably abetted by @eddiemair You may not enjoy the #bbc version of ‘balanced’ journalism. //

Feb 20, 2018 at 9:44 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

That PDF I mentioned Link to interesting BPF leaflet about it being an Asia problem

The BBC Feb 13th BBC to ban single-use plastics by 2020 after Blue Planet II
..that followed similar Virtue Signalling by Sky TV
... condoms are made of single use plastics

Proper waste disposal services in Asia is the issue
that will sort harm to their ocean wildlife
..not a few yogurt spoons in the BBC canteen
All this BBC virtue signalling wastes licence payers money

Feb 20, 2018 at 9:48 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Both BBC and ITV autocue readers are crusading
..sure they are saving the world and will win Nobel Prizes

@KeeleyDonovan tweeted
Something I'm becoming increasingly passionate about
... all week on @BBCLookNorth we're talking about the problem of plastic.
Join @harrylooknorth and I this evening for the first in our special series.

BBC Radio Humbersides Burnsey is leading a campaign to end drinking straws in Hull

The One Show are in

Feb 20, 2018 at 9:56 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Just burn it said polymer scientist rof Julia Higgins on BBC Radio4
direct link

Feb 20, 2018 at 9:59 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

The problem is primarily the BBC are amplifying the message from their eco-NGO chums - it's not about ocean plastics per se - it's a browbeating guilt game.

If they are truly concerned about reduction they would be sending St David of Attenborough and the weasely Harrabin (who it's not difficult to imagine having a large part in orchestrating the present panic) to the Far East to wag their fingers at the delinquent Orientals.

I have not heard one , not even a single case of somebody challenging the "evil plastics" tsunami of bilge that's seeping out of media across the land.

Countless anguished articles in the regional press about "Blue Planet" and how shrink wrapped broccoli in Luton is murdering little fishes in the Pacific and plastic forks from Northampton takeaways are getting jammed in Carribean turtle's noses.

Will they go to the source of most of the ocean rubbish? - I think we know the answer - but that will not be waved in their faces - the BBC wouldn't allow it.

Feb 20, 2018 at 11:47 PM | Registered Commentertomo

It's just weird how each few months they come up with a new topic
and apply the same PR tricks to it Find the GUILT and stoke it with emotional stories
I was wearing dust mask every day for 6 week in Borneo when the haze kicked in until it went down again
don't talk to me and tell me normal UK air is a huge problem.

Feb 21, 2018 at 12:19 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

BBC Radio Humbersides Burnsey is leading a campaign to end drinking straws in Hull

Feb 20, 2018 at 9:56 PM | stewgreen

Those must still be very long drinking straws. Why can't residents of Hull sit a bit closer to their drinks?

Feb 21, 2018 at 1:29 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Yes, it's all got up out of nothing. I'm a landfiller myself but I don't mind incineration where it makes sense. But when it comes to the three Bs, burn bury or bullshit the media pick the third, every time.

Feb 21, 2018 at 6:30 AM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

stewgreen Feb 21, 2018 at 12:19 AM

The consistency of these campaigns and the sameness of the presentation across the primary means of promulgation regardless of actual content (air pollution, plastic pollution) is simply coincidence.

Humans are predisposed to look for patterns in the world around them. Handy / convenient distractions though aren't they?

Feb 21, 2018 at 11:34 AM | Registered Commentertomo


I'd add that the Green charm offensive from the Conservative party - wittering about the issues - air and plastic in particular have made their way to parts of the party not historically known to opine publicly about such things and that the Conservatives obviously have an organised internal campaign with photo opportunities and missives from local party organisations to the faithful.

Feb 21, 2018 at 11:55 AM | Registered Commentertomo

I'm glad you started this thread, Stewgreen, as I was considering doing so myself.

Hardly a day seems to go by now without the BBC putting out another story about plastics/micro-plastics in the environment. They are indeed mostly hydrocarbon-based, and even the chlorinated ones do still degrade in the environment. Sunlight, oxygen, ozone, water (especially sea-water) all act to degrade plastics in the environment.
In the last week I have had plastic curtain hooks and a plastic cover on an external motion-sensor on a flood-light crumble under a gentle touch from my hands. I am sure other readers will regularly encounter such events.

But the BBC keeps on not stating why they think plastic particles in the environment are any more harmful than small particles of cellulose (wood), sand, silt, clay minerals,etc, are any more or less harmful than each other. Sure, plastic is unsightly to most human eyes[*], but that does not mean it represents a significantly increased risk, whatever the size of the particles. Everything that eventually degrades completely has to go through the micro-particle range as it gets smaller and smaller due to abrasion and chemical reaction/dissolution.

And don't get me started on the microparticles of TiO2 in paint. The BBC might have a seizure if someone pointed it out to them.

Plastics do degrade at varying rates in the environment, and companies have also worked on ones that degrade more rapidly. There is plenty of scope for further development, but greens are not interested in practical solutions, merely getting something banned if they don't like it. Plastic is one of the most visible end products of a few centuries of industrial development, so the Cider-with-Rosie crowd naturally want to do something about it.

[* An example of the subjectivity of human reactions to carelessly discarded modern paper and plastic waste is a story I have told before:

Back in the 80's I went on a trekking expedition up the Baltoro Glacier to K2 base-camp. En route, we learned there was a story in the climbing fraternity about one of the very few vegetated places where climbing expeditions camped overnight in this barren landscape of rock and ice: One of the big, well supplied, expeditions with their dozens-to-hundreds of local Pakistani porters stopped here overnight. The (Western) climbing expedition leaders were appalled at the amount of accumulated refuse that had been left by previous expeditions. The local porters were issued with a bin-bag each and told to go and clean the place up. The porters came back with plastic bags mostly full of leaves and twigs, not the paper and plastic that was so offensive to Western eyes. They perhaps regarded Western trash as a marker of something associated with a better standard of living, and therefore less undesirable than how the Westerners viewed it? We'll probably never know exactly what they thought, but it was clearly different from that of the affluent Westerners.

Feb 21, 2018 at 5:23 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

michael hart

Pakistan (Karachi) is pretty grim in terms of rubbish - but the worst places I've seen for rubbish / debris are in West Africa - Lagos and Port Harcourt in particular.

Feb 21, 2018 at 7:41 PM | Registered Commentertomo

I don't doubt it, tomo. And such situations of uncontrolled refuse accumulation are probably excellent breeding grounds for vermin and many other disease vectors, rather like equatorial/tropical rain forest. While neither of them are healthy places for humans to live, the rest of creation often takes a different viewpoint from delicate human sensibilities.

Richard Attenborough and the BBC are still selling the viewpoint that what is natural and beautiful is good, and what is human and ugly is bad. Yet the snows of Nanga Parbat are almost barren, whilst a sunken battleship or oil rig provides a wonderful micro-environment for marine creatures of all descriptions.

Of course, if the shipwreck is an ancient pirate's galleon loaded with Inca gold and silver then it is romantic enough for the BBC to think it something wonderful and worth filming. Such is the philosophy of Mills-and-Boon environmentalism as promulgated by the BBC who now wish to tell us all plastics are bad. Yes, one can always find a plastic bag or bottle which was the end of some dimwit seagull that got it's head stuck inside it. But there are many thousands of other containers which provide a little micro-environment for smaller creatures to use as shelter. If we look hard enough we may even find hermit crabs shacking-up in such places.

Feb 22, 2018 at 1:58 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

yup - seen the hermit crabs :-)

Also seen Pacific floating debris islands c/w bits of palm tree, fishing nets and piles of plastic with plants growing on them and their own resident schools of fishes.... and a few seabirds having a rest.

Feb 22, 2018 at 2:10 AM | Registered Commentertomo

Mr Hart: I think you meant: “…still selling the viewpoint that what is natural is beautiful and good, and what is human is ugly and bad.” Also, Richard Attenborough is dead; it is his brother, David “McBoatface,” who leads that charge.

Feb 22, 2018 at 1:19 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

12:43pm R4 Yoou and Yours
"After Planet Earth 2, one Cornish town Penzance has declared it's intention to be 'single use free town' "
... part of item was activist going into primary school.

Last night's Look North had a moving item about a 200Kg seal that was found dying cos somehow a holed frisbee had got trapped around its neck .. brought back to health and released back to sea after months.
... My feeling is that one seal is nothing in the whole scheme of things, and plenty of seals die of natural things.

Feb 23, 2018 at 12:50 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

BBC Glastonbury Festival plans plastic bottle ban
organiser Emily Eavis told Radio 6 Music the ban was "the big project" for 2019.

I'm guessing they mean sales of stuff in plastic bottles rather than a ban,
Otherwise how would you fill your own bottle from water fountains
Beer sales is often in recyclable cups
- but I bet they keep selling stuff in cans.

Feb 23, 2018 at 1:51 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Will Emily ban plastic drink containers ?

Obviously she is unfamiliar with the concepts of slippery slope and unintended consequences.

I look forward to a meat ban, a sugar ban and a gluten free Glasto - sorted

Feb 23, 2018 at 2:01 PM | Registered Commentertomo

British plastic s org the FPA point out massive inefficiency of pop bottle deposit scheme.
These days they mostly get properly put in rubbish and can be recycled.
In future you'd not put them in your red bin but take them to a supermarket and put them through a reverse vending machine.
Is it really worth it just to capture the few % that are not already put in recycling ?

Feb 23, 2018 at 3:53 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Yes, RR. I sometime get lost mid-rant.

Feb 24, 2018 at 11:19 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart