Imagine the world without anger, without greed. We have the power, the tools, the skills and the resources right now to build a peaceful world, where people live in harmony with the Earth and each other. This blog explores ways we are doing just that, one post, one change, one day at a time. Join me. Tell your stories. Ask for help. Spread your ideas for making the vision real and, well, ordinary.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Plastic comes from chickens

Chicken made from recycled plastic bags
Photo by nuanc CC /by-nc-nd/2.0/

Yeah, that’s the ticket. They lay all these plastic pellets, see. Then they scoop them up with their beaks and …

Where does plastic come from, really?

Look around. Right now, where you’re sitting, how many objects can you touch that are made of plastic or have plastic parts? The computer I’m typing on has plenty, eighty-six pieces in the keyboard alone. Within my vision are two plastic bags, a plastic bottle, a fashionable black space heater made of plastic and metal, another computer, its matching monitor and paraphernalia, and plenty more. This in a home filled with books, wooden toys and furniture of “natural” materials, organic linens and throws. Not for us the sleek black and chrome interior.

But plastic. Even the desk chair on which I sit has more plastic than not. The upholstery itself is a poly fiber blend. It’s difficult to imagine life without the versatile stuff. So I’ve been wondering, inquiring soul that I am, how much of the crude petroleum we drill and import each year is used to manufacture all our plastic gizmos and whatsits?

The US Energy Administration has the answer

Turns out it’s an easy question to answer on one hand, not so easy on the other. The (EIA) has some data for us, but it’s a little difficult to get a bead on the truth. Take a look.


Do you know where your plastic came from?

And where is it going when you’re through with it?
Beach Garbage
Image by jschneid CC by-nc/2.0

“Made in China.” That’s what I see on the bottom of almost every item I pick up these days. It is difficult to find US-made products, even when we’re looking for them, which begs the question: How much petroleum world-wide is used to make all the plastic gadgets, clothing, containers, bottle caps, can liners, disposable diapers, hair clips, toys, holiday trinkets and doodads (Big orange Halloween pumpkin, anyone?), pens, desk accessories, CD/DVD cases, Crocs, balloons, condoms, telephones, and almost anything else we Americans buy day after day all year long?

. According to , “Plastic production uses 8% of the world's oil production, 4% as feedstock and 4% during manufacture.” That’s 95 million more tons per year than we consumed sixty years ago, by the way.

What do you think? How many of the plastic bits within your vision were made in the United States, part of that 4.6 percent of our total petroleum consumption? Have you purchased anything lately labeled “Made in the USA”? (Celebrate! You helped an American keep her job!) How many bits were produced overseas using the petroleum resources of those countries? The big question remains: Where is all that plastic we gobble up and spit out coming from and how much oil does it take to make it?



We make peace in a million small ways every day.
All text and images, unless otherwise noted, copyright L. Kathryn Grace. All rights reserved.


Cinner said...

very interesting Kathryn, I even like the chicken. plastic bags are no longer used in any of the grocery stores, which is a start, I watched a show about water bottles and how much plastic is thrown out by them every is amazing. you are doing good work. be well.

Hayden said...

I misinterpreted the term "feedstock" and started growling.

Huge amount of oil is used to produce the chemical "fertilizers" that we use to kill our soil and produce hopped-up food. "Food" that has enough energy to grow, but precious little to transfer into the miracles of nutritional ingredients we need to fuel our bodies. So we end up "hopped up" too - able to run around, for awhile, but not to attain the deep health that brings peace and equanimity. Not the deep health that eliminates the need for psuedo-suppliments and medicines that only stave off the symptoms of our bone-deep malnutrition. *sigh.*

Deb Shucka said...

I still remember seeing The Graduate for the first when the big line was that the future was in plastics. We're living that future and it's a scary one.

A Box of Chocolates said...

Kathryn, we have the same dilemma here in Australia, a lot of our stores are now limiting the use of plastic bags, we can buy green eco bags, but recently there was a news story stating that the amount of petroleum used to make the eco bags was more than the plastic, go figure. Australian made, we'd love to buy it but unfortunately there isn't a lot and what there is, is usually much more expensive, what do we do?!

Kathryn Grace said...

Cinner, thank you so much for your good wishes. Where you live, with plastic bags gone from grocery stores, how have folks found transitioning to reusable bags?

Hayden, I did the same thing the first time I saw the word "feedstock." It wasn't until I had read a number of articles on the subject that I was sure the term is industry lingo for oil. Don't you love doublespeak? Thank you so much for bringing the fertilizer/oil connection to the fore, and how it hops us up without supplying the variety of nutrients we get from healthy soil so vital to our health. One more reason to go organic. Btw, you know all those tests that show organic foods are no more nutritious than conventionally grown? Turns out they don't even test for many nutrients, especially trace minerals so vital to good health. They test for a very few things, mostly the stuff that is added in to processed foods to increase nutrient value. Must do a post about that when there's time.

Deb, I've totally forgotten about that! Thanks for bringing it up. Do you suppose a significant number of folks watching The Graduate went out and bought stock in DuPont and are filthy rich today?

Chocolates, I'd like to know more about those green eco bags. Are they reusable? Was that factored into the study? If they are not solving the problem, there are plenty of other reusable bags one could use, don't you think? You asked a big question, too. What do we do about all the manufacturing jobs being shipped overseas to super cheap labor (near slave labor, in many cases)? I have some thoughts, but I'd love more to hear yours. Interested in dialogue?

Sharon said...

I thought San Francisco banned plastic bags too, and they were absent for a while. But they're not all gone. Also, plastic bottles are banned for companies that contract with the city of SF. The vending machines in my building no longer have plastic bottled drinks, but plastic bottles of water are still provided at out of office trainings and meetings. I need to research the related city ordinance to understand the differences. Still, it's a fair start.

Sharon said...

Also... largely because of your efforts, I ask myself if I want to throw 'this' in the trash before I buy it. It has prevented me from buying my former favorite cereals, crackers, packaged rice, etc. Not only do I contribute less to the trash pile, but maybe I contribute a little less to my waist too. I'm not green yet, but I'm greener. Thank you for always raising my awareness!

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