In my daily searches for breaking news, I tend to come across a lot of interesting stories about plastics that don't really fit anywhere specifically, but I'd still like to share them with Plastics Blog readers. Here are a few of my recent favorites:
• This morning National Public Radio had a surprisingly plastics-intensive story about an effort to design and manufacture a better toothbrush. Build A Toothbrush, Change The World. Or Not, by Joe Palca, tells the story of Mike Davidson, president and chief designer at Missouri City, Texas-based MD Brush LLC.
Davidson has had to overcome a lot of hurdles, some of them related to mold design. And remember the story from May about people in Vietnam protesting against China, and how it impacted some plastics factories? MD Brush had to deal with that, too.
Long story short, Davidson is poised to bring the new brushes to market in the next couple of months. Are they really going to cost $10 each? I know someone who won't be buying one.
• Did you hear the story about the United Airlines flight from Newark, N.J., to Denver that was diverted to Chicago because two passengers were arguing about whether the person in front had the right to recline her seat? Of course there was a plastics angle!
The passenger in back was using a plastic gadget called the Knee Defender, which blocks the seat in front from reclining.
Now your average traveler doesn't want to get kicked off a flight — that must be a major pain for everyone involved. But despite the outcome in this case, news of the fracas has actually been a big plus for the Knee Defender manufacturer, according to How a mid-air fight became great advertising.
The inventor, Ira Goldman, has the gadget manufactured in China, and he's spent less than $2 on advertising. But thanks to "good" publicity like the United Airlines story, he tells Bloomberg that sales are on the increase.
• In the "politics makes strange bedfellows" department, consider this San Francisco Chronicle story, California plastic-bag ban bill hung up in labor squabble. According to reporters Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross, the real story behind why state Sen. Alex Padilla's proposed bag ban stalled in the state Assembly was because the state's grocery workers' union, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, pulled its support.
According to the story, the union is holding the bag ban hostage because of an unrelated issue. And here we thought it was because the plastics industry made such a great case!
• Not all news for plastics was good news. The UK's Independent newspaper this week had a story with the alarming headline Plastics may pose a greater threat than climate change. Tom Bawden's story looks like the product of an op-ed column that Captain Charles Moore, of the Algalita Marine Research Institute, wrote for The New York Times.
The Times' headline was only a little less scary, Choking the Oceans with Plastic.
• NPR had another plastics-related story today (two in the same day?), Driven By Climate Change, Cotton Buyers Look For Alternatives. This time, the connection between climate change and plastics is more of a positive. According to the report, textile and clothing manufacturers are looking for sustainable alternatives to cotton, and they're coming back to polyester fabric made from recycled PET bottles.
• Finally, I really enjoyed a story from the University of Wisconsin a few weeks ago about how the Badger State's thriving plastics industry was, at least in part, the result of the efforts of Ronald Daggett, who taught "the world’s first engineering plastics class" at UW-Madison in 1946.
I love these historical stories, and Wisconsin plastics industry has roots in modest, multitalented UW-Madison professor is a good one, quoting some of the state's best-known plastics leaders. I wish I'd thought of it first.