October 21st, 2020

Plastic: friend or foe?

By Letter to the Editor on November 14, 2019.

We will not make real progress with renewable energy as long as we give double messages about fossil fuel products.

Using these products for propulsion causes air pollution – look at Delhi and Beijing! However, if a country has oil, it is a good thing to sell it to others.

Computers, cellphones and television harm us in some ways and help us in other ways. Cars are essential for personal transport although thousands of fatal accidents occur every year.

Looking at the wide variety of plastic products on the market, it seems highly unlikely that we will ever get rid of plastic completely. Like computers, cellphones, television and cars, plastic products will stay.

We receive double messages about plastics, too. On the one hand, we are urged to eliminate plastic shopping bags; on the other hand, city council advised that we double-bag perishable kitchen garbage now that they collect it only bi-weekly. How can we use fewer plastic bags when we have to use more? Paper bags for wet garbage won’t work.

The main alternatives for plastic are made of paper, wood or metal. Each of these has drawbacks. On a popular veterinary show, it was recently reported that several cows were killed by lightning because of their contact with a metal railing in a barn. Wood railing is safer for lightning, but because of cracks in the wood, it can harbour disease-carrying bugs. Covering metal rails with rubber or plastic would be safer for the cows.

When we think how many trees are killed to make fences, it may be one terrain where recycled plastic is urgently needed in great quantity. If durable plastic planks (looking like wood) can be made from recycled plastic, a lot of them can be used to replace old wooden fences – countrywide, worldwide. And these plastic fences will be maintenance-free. No more painting!

There are many other places where recycled plastic can be turned from foe to friend.

Jacob Van Zyl


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