Plastic is good for our environment (and computers)

Plastic is good for our environment (and computers)

Summary: The computer industry should increase its use of plastics and reconsider its use of some recyclable materials.This is not a contrarian position but a reasonable one, imho.

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The computer industry should increase its use of plastics and reconsider its use of some recyclable materials.

This is not a contrarian position but a reasonable one, imho. Consider this:

Plastic is made from oil:

--You can either burn oil and produce copious amounts of carbon dioxide and pollutants.

-- Or you can convert oil into plastic and its carbon stays put for several thousand years. The carbon is bound with chemical bonds that are so strong, it takes many thousands of years to break down and release.

Plastic has other great properties:

--The contents of plastic garbage bags in garbage dumps are partly protected from decomposure. Which means that their carbon content is not released as quickly as in a cultivated compost heap, through methane and other biological actions. The plastic bags protect their contents from those carbon-releasing processes--and that's a good thing.

--plastic based clothing fabrics such as microfiber offer silk, cotton, and leather-like substitutes that are getting better than their organic (and carbon-loose) comparable materials.

--creating plasticized wood and cements is producing superior wear resistant materials that are longer lasting and have superior carbon sequestration properties than their counterparts.

Lets Have A Carbon Sequestration Value

It would make sense that materials of all kinds, in all manufacturing processes, should be rated on their carbon sequestration properties. For example, wood based products would have a lower value (bad) because they give up and recycle their carbon easily through burning or composting.

Plastic based products would have a higher carbon sequestration value than wood, which would be good because the carbon in plastic is tied up for thousands of years. And plastic does not pollute, it is a very inert substance which means it does not dissolve or react with anything in our environment.

Recycling Increases Our Carbon Footprint

Every time we recycle anything, it increases our carbon footprint because of the energy that is needed to process the recycling. With plastics you don't need to recycle, you just bury it.

I can't understand why plastic hasn't become the darling of the green movement.

Topics: Hardware, CXO, Emerging Tech

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23 comments
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  • Plastic Good??

    What you seem to be forgetting is that you can grow more trees, rear more cows. I haven?t heard of anyone yet that has been able to grow more oil??? As we move more towards renewable and sustainable energy sources such as plant oils (jatropha and algae not palm oil). We can begin to rely on energy sources that aren?t in finite supply.
    As for your argument that composting releasing Methane is a negative thing; again as we become more switched on about these things we?ll have more facilities that can use the Methane again to provide energy.
    In short we are running out of oil AND we are running out of space to bury things!
    youngalexf
    • You are a captive of the Evos.

      The satellite data of the temperature off the top of
      clouds has remained steady since 1998. But, Buenos
      Aries is reporting the coldest winter in thirty years.

      We are at the hight of the Sunspot cycle, and the Sun's
      heat output lags slightly behind the frequency of
      Sunspots, so colder temperatures are quite likely over
      the next thirteen years. Hopefully, this will put to rest
      the issue of Man Caused Global Warming.

      The Earth has been warming up since 1850 as we come
      out of the Little Ice Age. But that increase is not steady.
      The Earth's temperature rose 0.5 degrees from 1900 to
      1945, then remained steady for about 15 years, then
      dropped 0.2 degrees during the 1960s prompting
      Socialist Environmentalists to project another Ice Age.

      Then, as if to prove that Socialists are always wrong, the
      temperature during the Seventies and Eighties rapidly
      rose. The Socialists swiftly projected a catastrophic
      Global Warming.

      So far, nothing much has proven that. The Northern
      Hemisphere has warmed up, but the Southern
      Hemisphere has not. The Environmental data is mixed.

      So, all your carbon reduction plans may be for nothing.

      Besides, the US, who never ratified the Kyoto Treaty, has
      voluntarily been reducing its Carbon Footprint faster
      than Europe who had ratified Kyoto. The Europeans
      found that Kyoto sabotaged their economy too much. That was the reason that the US didn't ratify Kyoto.
      America isn't sufficiently hypocritical, or as well connected to the Environmentalists as the Europeans, to
      get away with that.

      PS. Since the average life of a Landfill is ten years,
      America is always ten years away from running out of
      places to put landfills. The only problems with landfills is
      political; the "not in my backyard" social activists and the Environmentalist are creating this problem.

      A Landfill will become a treasure trove in later centuries
      when the technology makes it cheaper to recycle the products that we are burying now.
      UrbanBard
      • I must be too

        When a pulmonologist told my wife she had to move from San Diego to some place with little or no air pollution, we left (we now live in Cedar City, UT). <sarcasm>Clearly the good doctor was brainwashed, since a little smog never hurt anyone and the Clean Air Act is part of a Communist plot to destroy the Free Enterprise System</sarcasm>.
        John L. Ries
      • What planet are you on?

        Every independent scientist on the planet will tell you that Global Warming is "mostly" caused by the greenhouse gasses produced by the burning of fossil feuls. Methane from cows contributes but even that is indirectly a result of our activities.

        Global Warming is real and it is caused by us.

        Comments like "has
        voluntarily been reducing its Carbon Footprint faster
        than Europe who had ratified Kyoto" are completely false. Europe has reduced it's carbon footprint while the US, Australia, China, Australia and Russia have increased their footprint. Not to mention the fact the US still produces 5 times as much CO2 per person as even China. You simple invent "facts" so you can continue to drive your SUV. My car produces 148g/KM. what does your's produce?
        davidsarmstrong
  • More importantly . . .

    You are forgetting that making plastics from oil or coal uses carbon that was already stored in an even more stable form. This is a fatal flaw in your argument.
    justwondering
    • ..and also...

      That carbon released from wood was extracted from the environment just a few years before. Carbon in oil has been there a whole lot longer and was quite happily buried until recently.

      It's not just carbon though. Lots of other potentially nasty stuff is bound up in oil.

      I appreciate oil exists, it's a massively calorific fuel source, and has seriously appreciable benefits in things like plastics. Also it's really not currently feasible to build a useful computer out of trees. But perhaps it will be soon (at least partially) with the advent of cellulose based plastics...
      N_M
  • RE: Plastic is good for our environment (and computers)

    There's some pretty stupid and ill-informed thinking in this article.

    On carbon sequestration; good heavens, the carbon is already locked into the oil reserves. It's burning the damn stuff that generates CO2 - the requirement is to use less energy from fossil fuels. Turning oil into plastic doesn't in itself reduce the burning of fossil fuels. There's no rule that says that we have to use oil as fast as possible - it's not an either-or argument. We can use the stuff up slower at a rate more easily absorbed by the environment.

    In the case of wood, it has to be replaced which re-absorbs the CO2 so the basic material is carbon-neutral in the long term. Houses made with wood can (and do) last centuries and that's from recently absorbed CO2, not that from many millions of years ago.

    Now there is an argument that making a plastic bag uses less oil than a paper one depending on the assumptions made (the latter uses energy in forestry, paper production and so on) so not all wood-derived materials are necessarily benign.

    Now none of this means that plastic is a bad material - it has its purposes. However, to argue that we should turn as much as possible into plastic as quickly as possible to stop it being burnt is plain ridiculous - it's not an either-or argument. At the very least oil is a finite resource, and recklessly using it for power and wastefully using it is a betrayal of future generations.
    SteveGJ
    • Excellent points

      Most people don't understand the whole picture as you have described it. For example I was surprised to learn that buring wood gives off carbon, but, understanding the whole picture it became clear that, through the growth of new wood that the activity becomes carbon-neutral.
      davidsarmstrong
  • I'm told...

    ...that a lot of plastic is dumped at sea, where it can float on the surface indefinitely.
    John L. Ries
  • RE: Plastic is good for our environment (and computers)

    Bravo! I'm glad someone in IT is willing to say it after watching all the corporate cowards kowtow to the professional environmental activists from Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, Greenpeace, NRDC, etc, etc, ad nauseum
    namfos
    • And of course...

      ...you can demonstrate why all of those horrible environmentalist bullies are wrong, or at least exaggerating the importance of environmental protection.
      John L. Ries
  • Bury it?

    Not so long ago we had medical waste coming in with the tide in NJ. We had a "trash" train that left the east coast for the midwest - and was rejected and had to return back - probably for, ultimately, more ocean dumping.

    Since you have no problem with landfills, perhaps you would suggest changing your nearby park over to this use - or your local elementry school's playgrounds. NIMBY

    Sure you will. Having a landfill nearby is a selling point for your property, not to mention brings in those wonderful seagulls to your area. Riiiggghhtt....
    Jim888
  • Unbelievably Ignorant!

    Tom, let's talk proportions. Your whole argument
    hinges on the idea that using plastics reduces CO2
    emissions:

    1. Producing more plastic would significantly compete
    with using fossil fuels for energy overall? Laughable!

    2. Plastic in garbage dumps significantly lowers human
    CO2 production overall? Incredible!

    3. Plastic sequesters carbon for thousands of years and
    is chemically inert, so it's completely harmless, right?
    You really need to read this:

    <http://www.mindfully.org/Plastic/Ocean/Moore-
    Trashed-PacificNov03.htm>

    What makes your argument appalling is the selective
    way you see the issue. You use the same tactic as the
    Creationists: start with a presumed truth and see how
    many reasonable sounding arguments you can find to
    support it, without regard for the actual evidence.

    Sure you're not actually Mr. Robinson?
    Robert Kohlenberger
    • Thanks for the article

      I recall reading something about it recently, but couldn't remember the details.
      John L. Ries
  • RE: Plastic is good for our environment (and computers)

    I hope it's some kind of irony.
    pablo Dante
  • Is this a joke?

    Is this article a joke, a big irony for some other article I don't know about? I mean, Zdnet bloggers are smart people so I'm sure there is something behind this article that is supposed to have a double meaning or be funny, but I don't know.

    Can someone please explain the idea? As I've read it, I was just thinking "what the hell" and couldn't find the funny part.
    patibulo
  • And the plants that make plastic...

    ...run on solar???
    wmlundine
  • i don't even know where to start...

    this is so far off the mark, it's astounding.
    lostarchitect
  • RE: Plastic is good for our environment (and computers)

    "Or you can convert oil into plastic and its carbon stays
    put for several thousand years."

    By using large amounts of electricity produced by

    "...burn oil and produce copious amounts of carbon
    dioxide and pollutants"

    Are you really that ignorant?
    aep528
  • Is this article an April Fool's prank?

    Wow. This article is SO wrong it's ridiculous.
    jayk_z