Blog 29.10.18

(Plastic) Ties that Bind

Bound forever: single use plastics have a way of clinging on

Was it the jaunty plastic straw rammed up the nostril of a sea turtle?  Or maybe the sea horse clinging to a used cotton bud?  Or that Coke bottle inside the gut of an emaciated, very dead orca?

Visually speaking, single-use plastics are experiencing an animus horribilis.  The Instagram moments are many and the effect traumatising for those tasked with managing the reputations of the companies who dispense such plastics, especially when their brands are emblazoned on the litter.

The amazing functionality of so many of the villainous items is in reverse proportion to how much we now hate them. Take the disposable plastic water bottle: incredible design, engineering and manufacturing prowess brings us an everlasting vessel filled with fresh, fizzy, hygienic liquid no matter where we are in the world. And how about the plastic-foil laminate sachet which delivers safe, tasty tuna in gravy to our precious little kitty?

No matter how much you hate plastic, you must marvel at the design and engineering of modern packaging. Every bit as clever as a Breitling or Rolex. It’s such a pity to throw it away.

The terrifying thing about single use plastics is how many different items there are to worry about. My current fixation is with plastic ties – those whippy little bits of plastic magic that are used to lash things to lampposts, tie cables together and myriad of every-day uses, including temporary handcuffs ideal for sudden renditions.

Cable ties were invented in 1958 by Maurus C. Logan who worked for Thomas & Betts, an electrical company supplying cable to the aerospace industry. Now, made from nylon, they appear to be everywhere but mostly stranded on lampposts or lying on the ground after being cut and chucked.  Given their global ubiquity, it won’t be surprising to find them rammed up the nostril of a turtle or ringing the neck of a gull.

Fortunately, the next generation of ties are being made to be biodegradable and certainly less wasteful (such as the Rap-Tie that leaves no tail and can be undone and re-used). But given that plastic ties have been around for over 50 years, it’s going to be many more before we can walk past street furniture without seeing the trademark lashing leftovers. A constant reminder of the craziness of single-use plastic.

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