The film “No Impact Man” shows a radical solution being something attainable. Colin Beavan, the man the documentary is centered around, successfully makes no environmental impact for the greater portion of a year. The first time I watched it was in correlation with “The Age Of Stupid” and I was required to make a trash diary where I collected all of the garbage I produced for a month, sorted it into the various material categories and weighed it; this was of course done with proper sanitation means. The trash diary really shows how much waste one person produces, and separating the materials demonstrates just how much of it is not recyclable or has limitations to its recyclability.

I came to Ringling from the University of Cincinnati after two years majoring in chemical engineering with a minor in nuclear physics and as a result have a solid grasp on polymers, how they are produced, and how their chemical composition causes them to react in the environment.  Polyethylene (grocery bags), polypropylene (carpet), polystyrene (styrofoam, CD/DVD cases), polyvinyl chloride (PVC pipe) and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE Teflon) are commonly used thermoplastics, all derived from a petroleum base. The refining of petroleum into polymers is an energy intensive process, so not only do polymers require a finite resource as a base but the manufacturing process requires a large amount of energy.

So polymers require a large amount of energy to produce from a finite resource, why not reuse the existing stock and recycle it? The process for recycling polymers involves melting the plastics. Heating polymers causes a degradation of a polymers chemical composition and it begins to break down, as a result polymers can only recycled a few times before becoming useless. The largest issue with recycling polymers is separating it into the many different types, it is labor intensive and expensive and therefore it cheaper and easier to produce new. A new technology developed in Japan allows the polymers to be converted back into their petroleum bases with little energy input. More information on that can be found here:

A simple technology that will likely disappear due to its detrimental impact on Koch industries.

Colin states that if there was one thing you could do to help better the environment that it would be to join an organization. I would have to say that I would stop using polymers because the chemical composition being unable to be effectively re useable.

Here are the guidelines for starting a trash diary, as well as a link to FAQ, if anyone is interested:

“The Age Of Stupid”

Jacob Berrier


2 responses »

  1. Ciera Fedock says:

    one thing you might check out is Mike Biddle’s TED talk about how we can recycle plastics. It is certainly possible and farm more economically sound than you would think.

    • Jacob Berrier says:

      I believe you misunderstood my point. I understand the process of recycling polymers far better than the average person needs to and I never said plastics could not be recycled. When they are recycled by the method Mr. Biddle refers to the compounds in the polymers degrade and there is a loss. If one takes, for example, 500kg of a polymer and recycles it, there will not be 500kg after the process is over.

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