Saturday - July 14, 2007

Category Image Land Fills

Some people lack the ability to look ahead.

I was listening to National Public Radio and some yahoo came on to talk about plastic. It seems it was the one hundredth anniversary of the patent for plastic being filed in this country. They were interviewing a man who specialized in the history of plastic. As newsworthy and interesting stories go, this one wasn't. They describe the story this way: "Michele Norris talks with Dr. Jeffrey Meikle, a historian of American plastic, about who Leo Baekeland was, and how his invention affected the next century's thinking." And don't forget that you don't pronounce Michele like everyone else would, this is NPR so a snobbish pronunciation is required, her name is MEE' shell.

But, NPR being NPR, Mee had to inject political slants somehow or another, and she found a way to put a negative political spin on plastic for crying out loud. After talking about the properties of plastic, she insisted that the plastics historian tell us how horrible plastic is for the environment. Okay, not so bad, until she said that plastic is as bad as nuclear waste.

How do these morons get on the radio?

Her reasoning goes something like this: Plastic doesn't decompose (wrong) therefore it stays in landfills forever. Quod erat demonstrandum, plastic is like nuclear waste.

What, you didn't follow that? Let's try it again, pay attention this time.

Plastic is in landfills, therefore it is as bad as radioactive material.

Yeah, I don't follow it either.

Let's look a bit closer at the problem without the obligatory NRP slant.

Plastic decomposes more slowly when not exposed to sunlight. This much is true. But you know what else doesn't decompose when it's underground in a landfill? Paper. When paper is tightly compacted, such as in a book form, it's virtually impossible for water and air to decompose the paper.

Don't tell Meeshell, she'll start telling us that books are as dangerous as nuclear waste.

Personally, I'm all in favor of landfills, especially with paper and plastic in them. Some day, if resources ever become scarce, someone will make a lot of money mining ancient landfills for the plastic, metals, and paper contained therein. The cellulose of the paper can be dumped directly into a paper mill. The plastics can be chopped up and recooked to make new plastics. Land fills are a future treasure trove of all kinds of good resources.

Nuclear waste isn't. It's just radioactive. But don't let basic concepts get in the way of your publicly financed political agenda, Meeshell.

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