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2009/10/22

Long live plastic bottles!

Someone sent me a link to this item about the "Eco Bottle" - there is a picture of this 650ml bottle to the right. There was room for comments after the item, but it was limited to a max. of 400 words, and so I have posted my thoughts on the matter below.

Essentially, "Charlie's" brand has decided to sell water in a kind of plastic that is apparently made from plant matter as opposed to crude (fossil) oil. Greenies would lurve this, of course - you can almost feel the planet cooling - hence the post is on a website for something called "The sustainable greenlist directory". Everything has to be "sustainable" and "recyclable" nowadays it seems, except people of course - although that earliest of great recyclers, Adolf Hitler, apparently effectively demonstrated that even people did not need to be wasted and were recyclable by having his henchmen render the body fats from several millions of  innocent Jews to produce a kind of soap and used the ashes of their burned bodies to make road asphalt to build into roads. Some people have remarked that there is no limit to the fertile imagination of the mind of Man. I remember my mother telling me about this Hitler and what he had his German people do, as I listened to her in wonder as a child, and I recall years later the truth hitting home when I studied the history of the Nazi regime.

Anyway, as my old colleague Malcolm would say - did say, actually - "That's all water under the bridge now. Why can't we just forget about it? We must move on". Only trouble is, I can't move for all these historical corpses lying around and for knowing that there are currently an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims on the planet who are brought up to believe that they should start up again where Hitler left off and make a proper job of it this time.

But I digress. I would suggest that this "Eco bottle" could be a frivolous and cynical marketing exercise intended to make money out of gullible people.
As the old saw puts it, "There's one born every minute". I shall avoid buying them at any rate, just as I avoid buying any drinks supplied in plastic bottles. "People want hydration on the go" indeed! The person who said that in the comments to the article may have believed it, but those of us who have worked in Marketing know that people who want that sort of thing have been taught to want it by the suppliers. It is a classic and cynical objective of marketing development strategy - the creation of a need where none existed before. Achieving this objective brings accolades from fellow Marketers - an ultimate honour. There's one born every minute, and I'm one of them too.

But enough of marketing BS and the rationalisation of our irrational beliefs and wants - let's examine plastic.
Plastic - polythene in particular - has come a long way from being just a gooey waste by-product of the production of naphtha where no-one knew what to do with it. Plastic bottles/containers are now ubiquitous in the market and reign supreme as a "preferred container of choice" primarily because:
  • They are so very cheap to make (labour and materials).
  • They are very light and easy to handle - e.g., in bottling processes, and by the consumer.
  • They are easy to mould precisely into all manner of attractive and useful shapes.
  • They can be mass-produced and are thus open to reducing marginal costs of production.
  • They are very safe to handle - e.g., light and even flexible, not poisonous and do not have viciously sharp edges or break into sharp-edged shards when dropped or damaged.
  • Some of them are almost indestructible - e.g., polycarbonate material.
  • They are fit for purpose - i.e., they work well.
  • They are thus so cost-effective, manufacturers have promoted and standardised on their supply and have progressively withdrawn less cost-effective alternatives (e.g., non-plastic - such as glass and waxed cardboard) from production.
Plastic in general has a dark side, however:
  • Plastic products do not easily break down or decompose and thus they remain in the environment wherever they are disposed of, often becoming an environmental and sometimes deadly hazard to wildlife on land and in the sea. In fact even small bits can be a deadly choking hazard to humans and animals - e.g., those little rectangular clips that hold the neck of the transparent bags containing our sliced bread from the supermarket.

  • Research is starting to indicate that the chemicals used in the manufacture of plastic and in the lubricating release agents used in the manufacture of moulded plastics are toxic or carcinogenic. They have been found to accumulate in the human body to the point where they could or actually have caused harm - e.g., as contributing to lowering fertility rates in human eggs/sperm. At normal ambient temperatures, these chemicals tend to leach out slowly, poisoning the food/liquid contained by the plastic, but they can be released from the plastic more rapidly when the plastic is heated, thus poisoning the food/liquid at a faster rate.
The "green" connection:
Common plastic bottles are synthesised from crude (fossil) oil, but - Oh dear! - that is a non-renewable resource, and for various reasons that is believed  by environmentalist fascists to be a "BAD THING", and they insist that we must not use them and that to do so is somehow immoral and an anti-social crime and lots of other bad and "unacceptable" things, no doubt. However, in reality, there is is nothing to prevent us typical humans from submitting (as we usually do) to the law of supply and demand and exploiting oil resources until oil starts to become scarce/costly, driving us to seek out and use a more cost-effective alternative. Whilst synthesising a new form of plastic from plants could be prohibitively expensive today - and so not economically viable and arguably not a good use of productive farmland either - that does not mean that it could not be a more economically viable alternative in the future - that's always assuming we will still have spare productive farmland to grow the source on.

Thus, from the above, I would suggest that so-called "Eco-bottles" are unlikely to depose common plastic from its throne, and also because:
  • Clearly the majority of consumers would seem to not understand or care if or whether plastic continues to be made from non-renewable oil resources or if it makes for environmental hazards for wildlife. If they did, they would already boycott the use of plastic.

  • Clearly the majority of consumers would seem to not understand or care if or whether plastic releases slowly accumulating and harmful toxins into the human system. If they did, they would already boycott the use of plastic. This is a bit like smokers who continue to smoke.
What about the contribution of plastics manufacture to global warming?
  • Clearly the majority of consumers would seem to not understand or care if or whether plastics manufacture contributes to global warming, otherwise they would be demanding action from their state legislature, and corporations would be absolutely prohibited from environment pollution and made more accountable for their environmental footprint. QED.

  • The subject is a vast mire - a market of alternative, contradictory ideology and beliefs, each with their corresponding organisation of high priests with arcane knowledge. It is not even a proven fact that global warming is man-made, and contradictory theories and theorists (priests) abound - all claiming to hold the "correct" view - thus illustrating the truth of just that point (it's not a fact).

  • This huge debate is not helped by the gross distortion of truth and statistics used by the high priests promulgating their preferred ideologies/beliefs - e.g., the numbers used (and, more especially not used) in the film "An Inconvenient Truth". There is no absolute rational basis to believe any of it, yet we do believe it, one theory or the other - and why shouldn't we? We are, after all, irrational creatures. It's similar to the opposing theories of the creationists and the evolutionists. They can't both be right in truth, and clearly neither are, so it's probably advisable and reasonable to sit on the fence rather than settle for "belief".

"Magna est veritas et praevalebit" – Truth is powerful and will ultimately prevail.

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