Friday, July 13, officially was the plastics industry's 100th birthday -- that's the day that Leo Baekeland patented Bakelite. We're up to our elbows in plastics industry history this week, preparing our Aug. 6 special report, "Celebrating a Century of Plastics." Our staff is having fun with the project. To whet your appetite, here's an interesting interview with Jeffrey L. Meikle, a professor of American studies and art history at the University of Texas, and the author of "American Plastic: A Cultural History." National Public Radio's Michelle Norris is the interviewer, and they touch on a wide range of topics in a bit less than 8 minutes. Here's a highlight: Norris gives a list of environmental concerns related to plastics and asks whether the continued use of plastic makes sense. Meikle's reply: "Actually, I think it does make sense. One of the things about plastic is that has always been a democratizing material. It has made it possible to manufacture more cheaply things that otherwise would be too expensive for millions of people to have." Meikle isn't a cheerleader for the industry -- but he does touch on some interesting advantages of plastics that seem to get lost in modern debates about controversial issues like product bans, and the industry's sustainability.
Happy 100th birthday
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