Demise of plastics greatly exaggerated
Walter Bobruk (in his June 13, Page 6 letter headlined ``Plastics are not here to stay'') seems to suggest that for us to go forward may involve going backward, to natural materials instead of plastics. He cites predictions of the end of the age of oil and natural gas.
While forecasters expect steadily tightening supplies and rising prices for oil and natural gas, these substances are not about to disappear altogether. Plastics will continue to account for a small fraction of the world's consumption of them and add more value than does burning them for heat or transportation. As the supply situation worsens, rising costs may well cause some molders and extrusion processors to lose business - but it will not be because consumers have a longing to go back to the metal trash cans and wicker laundry baskets that Mr. Bobruk singles out for praise.
Where did he get his plastic trash cans, anyway? Only two years of use? My Rubbermaid trash cans go back at least 15 years. As for wicker baskets - no thanks!
The future that he describes, ``without CD players and DVDs, when all entertainment is digital and free by broadcast satellite to your home or moped or bicycle or personal computer ...,'' sounds pretty good to me. But we will need plastics to make it happen. Plastics will be the material of choice for transcribing, archiving and transmitting that entertainment, and plastics will be the only practical material for receivers of all types-even when integrated in mopeds or bicycles.
Besides, what if we want to preserve, for personal use, some of that digital entertainment from space? Will we use recorders made of wood or metal? And what about the media? Every mass-produced recording medium since the first Kodak film has been made of plastics.
While the demise of plastics is not imminent, there is trouble ahead. But that does not mean that consumers-including the hundreds of millions of newly empowered consumers in China and elsewhere-would welcome substitutes for plastics. For the moment, we could save large quantities of fossil fuels through conservation and development of alternate energy sources. What the plastics industry needs now is statesmanlike political leadership, not an undertaker.
I once heard science fiction writer Isaac Asimov tell an audience that technological progress, once achieved, cannot be taken back. Maybe this was his version of the Pandora's Box story, but, for good or ill, I think he was right.
Martino Communications Inc.
The plastics debate will rage on, and on
Mr. Bobruk, in his June 13 letter, made the statement ``Plastics are a product of an oil-and-natural-gas industrial age that is dying.'' While it is true that most plastics are currently based on such feedstocks, not all plastics are.
Polylactic acid is a well-noted commercial exception and other plastics that are not based on petroleum feedstocks are also being prepared. We can continue to debate exactly how much oil reserves exist - a debate that has been going on for at least the 40-plus years that I've been alive and is no closer to being resolved - but there is no debate on this: Plastics are here to stay.
Aspen Research Corp.
St. Paul, Minn.
Plastic's lower cost assures its survival
Dear Mr. Bobruk, I read your editorial titled, ``Plastics are not here to stay'' and could not help but recall the first time I heard the phrase, ``The sky is falling.'' The bottom line is that it's all about money, not quality.
One can still purchase wicker baskets and metal trash cans, but they cost more than plastic. In this cost-is-king environment, unless one is willing to get off their wallet, wicker and metal cans won't play a major role. I have plastic trash cans that are more than 10 years old, but being in plastics, I was smart enough to look for products manufactured with ultraviolet-light stabilizers included in the polymer. But you see, most folks don't know about UV stabilizers. All they saw was that one can cost about $12 more than the other, just like you did. Both can be recycled if you are willing to drive them to a facility that recycles plastics or metals. However, most folks aren't willing to spend $2 in gas or more to collect the nickel.
Now, before you attack the automobile, I know it cost more to keep two horses, unless you live on at least 30 acres and work from your home.
You missed the point, in my opinion, when you said, ``If you are interested in the future lifestyle of your children and grandchildren, you [plastic processors] need to determine substitutes for your products.'' Finding substitutes for plastics will have little or no effect in terms of securing the future of the children or grandchildren here in the United States. Our children, or at least our grandchildren, will grow up in a second-world country in terms of gross national product. Very little manufacturing will be done here because today the folks that control and own major companies just can't seem to make ends meet making $1.8 million a week. That's right - $1.8 million a week. So you see, it's all about money.
In the future, finding or developing alternate material(s) to replace plastic will ultimately end up being China's problem anyway. We'll stick with wicker.
Allen M. Caton
A&M Engineering Plastics Inc.
Industry finds ways to adapt to changes
Every once in a while I get a good laugh at an item in Plastics News. Walter Bobruk provided the latest one.
I just quake in my shoes when I hear that my industry is going to go away because of some reason or another. Now it is the impending oil depletion that is going to be the demise of our industry.
This industry was built by people who saw the advantage of the applications of plastic products. And, if and when the oil disappears (not in my lifetime, I'm betting), then the industry will change to adapt. The smart people and companies will survive, oil shortage or not. When oil gets too expensive to use, then other materials will emerge naturally.
Mr. Bobruk thinly disguises his distaste for anything plastic by saying ``... if you are interested in the future lifestyle of your children and grandchildren, you need to determine substitutes for your products.'' Then he tries to show his impartiality by stating, ``I am not saying all plastic products are bad. I am saying plastic should be used only when there is not a good substitute ...''
That is precisely why plastic came of age in the first place: It is a good substitute for other materials, ``coat hangers, a plastic counter or plastic flooring'' included.
Mr. Bobruk should look at the enormous good effect plastics has had on our environment and lifestyle by industry switching to plastics, not away from them.
If anything, the rising cost of oil should spur industry to make more and more products out of plastic to make them lighter, safer and less expensive. The fact is that when oil goes up, so does everything else. In the long run plastics add to our comfort zone and our pocketbooks.
Or, would Mr. Bobruk suggest a 7,000-pound car that gets three miles to the gallon? Talk about an oil shortage. Talk about pollution.
But, I must run. The sky is falling. The sky is falling.
Deimling/Jeliho Plastics Inc.
Rhetoric on PVC unsound science
Please inform Mr. Bill Walsh that while he is spreading alarmist and extremist views (allegations) about PVC and its ingredients, he is his message [``PVC-free agenda makes sense,'' July 11, Page 6]. To mouth words of an extremist nature in a public forum, and then deny the label, is silly. It's a form of verbal sleight of hand, and I'm not buying it! Common sense is confused with pure bias.
Mr. Walsh's attitude is a product of the biased research he reads, those experts he believes, plus he has his own agency's ax to grind. Maybe we're all susceptible to the information we choose to read and believe, but the opinions expressed in Mr. Walsh's Perspective are a bit like screaming ``fire'' in a packed theater. If there is no fire, then Walsh's screams are the acts of a terrorist.
PVC poses no real and/or present danger to anyone, given that it is used wisely and not abused. Be informed, read widely and wisely. Please think before you assume that a product made with PVC, or that's been used extensively in the health-care industry for years, is an insidiously evil, nonhealth-conscious material. That's alarmist rhetoric, not information based on experience or sound science.