Wednesday 13 May 2015

The Plastic Age

Archeologists, when exploring a long-gone civilisation, have to work with the artifacts that are left behind. The stuff that, for whatever reason, has lasted. Metal. Glass. Ceramics. Those artifacts tend to allow scientists to group cultures into different ages, based on the most prevalent materials around. The Iron Age. The Bronze Age.

It's commonly thought that when future archeologists look back at us, they will describe the 20th and 21st century as The Plastic Age. In the fifty years since petroleum was first refined into a hard-wearing, long-lasting material, plastics have taken over the world.

And that's a problem. In the most remote areas, in places where humanity has never settled, you can still find plastic. We've all heard of the island of trash floating 1500 miles from land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. There's more of it out there with every passing year, in places we always believed to be pristine. The trouble with long-lasting materials is that they last for a very long time. It just doesn't degrade in the way that natural materials do.

This is cause for worry, naturally. But it might not be cause to throw in the towel quite yet. See, as the cost and difficulty in recycling plastics drops, that island of junk in the Pacific stops being an obstacle and starts to look like an opportunity. An untapped resource, ripe for the taking.

Which brings us, finally, to the remit for this blog. Pharrell Williams has teamed up with G-Star Raw to launch a range of jeans made from recycled ocean plastics. To promote the new line, there's a documentary on the whole issue, that's well worth a look.

Now, no-one's claiming that a range of jeans is going to solve the global problem of waste plastic. But the involvement of a big name like Pharrell will make people pay a little more attention to the issue than they would otherwise. And that has to be a good thing.

Take a look at the whole thing, and start thinking about plastic a little differently.

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