Please Explain: Plastic

Friday, April 18, 2008

It’s virtually impossible to get through the day without using plastic, but it’s only been widely available to consumers for about 100 years. We find out what plastic is, why it’s so useful, and whether we should be concerned about its widespread use. Dr. Mark Michalovic is Educational Consultant with the Chemical Heritage Foundation. Robert Malloy of UMass Lowell is a researcher in the areas of plastics product design, polymer processing, recycling of thermoplastics.


Robert Malloy and Dr. Mark Michalovic

Comments [25]

Steve from Minnesota

What a disappointing show! Nothing but two cheerleaders for the plastics industry, examined by a host apparently unaware of the large and growing body of science regarding the effects of the virtually unrestricted use of these chemicals. Leonard's blase acceptance of everything his guests fed him was, unfortuanately, a very good illustration of how the larger society has acquiesced over the last half century. Shame on you, Leonard!

Apr. 19 2008 05:30 PM
Jon P. from Hewitt, NJ

Jawbone and Worlds Toughest Milkman,

Plastic bottles are actually more then one layer of plastic. The outside layer protects the contents from UV rays. The inside layer is less porous so you don’t get as much of a plastic taste. You’ll never find a soda bottle made of 100% post consumer plastic because plastic is so porous. You just can’t get rid of the taste or odor of the previous product that was stored in the recycled bottle or container. That being said, milk always tastes better from a glass bottle then a plastic container. But as the Worlds Toughest Milkman, I’m sure you already know it takes a heck of a lot less energy to deliver 1000 gallons of milk in plastic containers then is does to deliver it in glass containers due to the incredible weight ratio difference between glass and plastic.

Apr. 18 2008 02:48 PM
World's Toughest Milkman from the_C_train

jawbone so that means that you are a pepper!

Joking aside, that sounds interesting and supports the issues with chemicals leeching. Not sure what effects chemo have on the senses and if it hyper-sensitizes or how that phenomenon occurs.

On a side note, soda and carbonated beverages are some of the worst things you can put into your body on a regular basis, especially diet sodas. I'd strongly suggest you check and adjust your diet so that you can have a long and healthy recovery.

Apr. 18 2008 02:20 PM

What about paper products? I've heard many are made with chlorine and other toxic chemicals.

Apr. 18 2008 02:07 PM
tia from nyc

recent study on seepage:

Apr. 18 2008 01:58 PM
jawbone from Parsippany, NJ

There's no expert on the medical/biological effects of plastics?

Re: Compostaable bags--do they actually break down or just break down into tiny pieces, which remain as the plastic?

Apr. 18 2008 01:58 PM
Sally Forth from Soho

Does it take more energy to compost those plastic bags (manufacturer them) vs. make ones from recycling?

Apr. 18 2008 01:56 PM
shc from Manhattan

When a plastic is designated as "biodegradable," what does that mean exactly? Can they be composted? How long does it take for the plastic to degrade to a (somewhat) natural state?

Apr. 18 2008 01:56 PM
jawbone from Parsippany, NJ

When I was attending a head and neck cancer support group, many of the people there had terrible problems with taste due to the radiation and chemo treatments. Many experienced terrible tastes in familiary foods and drinks.

One man had reached a level of improvement where he could drink just plain water--for the first time in months. But he could not drink bottled water out of plastic bottles--there was something which affected the taste of the water and caused a gag reflex for him.

It was not psychological--his caretakers had done double bline tests. Tap water, finally OK. Bottled, awful. For me, this says there is some kind of interaction between the water in the bottle and the bottle itself. (Happened if tap water were put into a platic bottle.)

When I had taste problems after my treatments, water tasted unbearably salty, but I could mask that with lot of lemon juice. I couldn't drink Diet Coke for months, beer tasted horrible, but I could drink Diet Dr. Pepper from the git go. Strange. (I don't drink any sugared sodas.)

Apr. 18 2008 01:53 PM
John from Manhattan

Since PCVs are used in pipes carrying water for great lengths of time, does anything leech into the water.

Apr. 18 2008 01:52 PM

How about those plastic packages of food that you immerse in boiling water to reheat? How does heat affect these types of plastics?

Apr. 18 2008 01:51 PM
emily from Montreal

Is Saran Wrap safe for the microwave?

Apr. 18 2008 01:49 PM
barbara Sell from Morristown, NJ

It was always interseting to me that my mother-in-law, born in the first quarter of the twentieth century, never lost her fascination with plastic. When she began to succumb to dementia in her later years, all things plastic were a favorite topic of conversation. In spite of all of the technological innovations in her lifetime - plastic captured her imagination.

Apr. 18 2008 01:49 PM
Katie Taber from Brooklyn

Can you please have your guests explain the following:

If you accidentally put the wrong plastic into recycling bin does that really mess up a whole batch? Does the city not do another pass at sorting the stuff?

PLEASE let us know!


Apr. 18 2008 01:46 PM
Justin OBrien from Bronxville

1) Can your guests please talk about pollutants released during the manufacturing process itself?

2)Your guests touted non-degradability as a positive since nothing leaches into the earth. However, all the plastic has to sit somewhere eventually and you cant grow vegetables in it. So, biodegradability IS an environmental negative, isnt it?

Apr. 18 2008 01:44 PM
MichaelB from UWS of Manhattan

I try to recycle all my plastic ("recycle" here means, put the plastic stuff into the correct bin in the basement) but I have quesstions about how much I should clean the item before putting it into the recycle bin.
Does food that hasn't been removed from the container ruin the recycling process?

Also, I am puzzled by why we in NYC intermingle plastic, glass, beverage containers (like non-plastic milk containers), etc.

Apr. 18 2008 01:43 PM
DP from Crooklyn

can the guest please explain more about plant-based plastic substitutes? What is the status of this technology? what uses can the plant base plastics be substituted?

Apr. 18 2008 01:42 PM
Sally Forth from Soho


Can you ask these guys about plastic already in landfills? Is it mine-able from there?


Apr. 18 2008 01:40 PM
Nan from westchester, ny

is it safe to reuse plastic water bottles?

Apr. 18 2008 01:40 PM
Chris from New York, NY

Did either of your guests get into the plastic business because of "The Graduate"? ;)

PS If you weren't planning on it already, play that clip from the movie at the end of the segment!!!

Apr. 18 2008 01:36 PM
Jaime from Queens

Are the new cellulose rolling papers considered plastic. If this is not toxic, why can we not use this form for packaging?

Apr. 18 2008 01:36 PM
World's Toughest Milkman from the_C_train

Can you ask about pvc pipes and also the issue with BPA's leeching into the contents?

I think plastic is a great thing but I feel that it will become the asbestos of our generation.

Apr. 18 2008 01:35 PM
RAI from Manhattan

Another question: Is polyester fiber considered a plastic?

Apr. 18 2008 01:34 PM
RAI from Manhattan

I understand that one of the earliest uses of plastic was for billiard balls, which were made of nitrocellulose plastic. Unfortunately, these billiard balls supposedly tended to explode or catch fire.
Can you verify this?

Apr. 18 2008 01:31 PM
Gary from Manhattan

Leonard, please have the guests talk about the toxic dangers related to phthalates (pronounced tha-lates), which are used as a plastic softener in shower curtains, baby pacifiers, shampoo bottles, car dashboards, etc.

See this book called "Exposed" by Mark Schapiro:

Apr. 18 2008 01:06 PM

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