My book Plastic: A Toxic Love Story will be out April 18. The book – based on three years of research – is an all-around look at the materials that are the defining medium – and metaphor – of modern life. I explored the history of plastics and their role in design and culture. I traveled across the U.S. and to China to learn about the plastics economy and to assess the health impacts of plastics and their effect on the environment. I wasn’t only looking at plastic as an entity unto itself, but how we related to and were shaped by it.
And over time, I was struck by how the story of this relationship resembled a love affair gone bad. People initially were infatuated with plastics, eager to use these new materials in every possible way. In the ‘40s, pollsters found that “cellophane” was considered one of the most beautiful words in the English language, after “mother” and “memory”. By the 1970s, when I was a teenager, plastic had acquired a much worse reputation; it was the stuff of pink flamingos, shiny suits, tacky furniture. It was synonymous with shoddy and fake. Today we’re discovering truly serious problems because of our reliance on plastics – health hazards, wasting of resources, pollution. And yet every year, the amount of plastics produced and consumed goes up. We’re trapped in an unhealthy dependence — the hallmark of a toxic relationship. Hence, the subtitle of my book.
I am hoping the book will inform and stimulate the much-needed conversation about the proper place of plastics in our lives. But a book is a one-way communication. I see this blog as a chance to open up the discussion for a real dialogue. I’m looking forward to the chance to toss around ideas, chew over the latest news in Plasticville and hear what others think we can do to rehabilitate this dysfunctional relationship. I look forward to the conversation.