Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Making Plastic a Verb

I've never been a big Black Eyed Peas fan [*], but in a recent interview in The Guardian, Will.i.am said had some interesting thoughts about plastic waste that are close to what I've been saying for some time:
"The reason why a city doesn't recycle is because people don't see waste as a commodity. They see waste as waste. I was like wow, with the technology we have today it's only waste because we waste the opportunity to turn it into something else. So let's not recycle, let's upcycle."
As I stated in the not too distant past, the whole upcycle/downcycle concept is pretty meaningless, but the idea that waste is "...only waste because we waste the opportunity to turn it into something else" is very powerful.
"Let's make plastic a verb because right now plastic is a noun. Take a plastic bottle. Before it was plastic it was oil, before it was oil it was a living creature. Therefore it's not plastic at all. Plastic is a process, it's like a continuous reformation and transformation of an object. The brain is plastic; plasticity of the mind means your brain is always growing. If you go to the doctor and get plastic surgery they're not putting plastic on your nose, they're just altering it."
While you can argue that plastic is also an adjective, Will.i.am clearly understands the true meaning of the word plastic. Plastic deformation is an old concept from material science that dates back to the mid-17th century and refers to the ability of a material to have its shape altered. When synthetic polymers were being developed a hundred years ago, they had this properties in spades and so the name plastic was a natural fit for these novel materials. Will.i.am is taking it the next step and looking at the big picture that extends for eons.

There are a lot more interesting thoughts in the interview - I highly recommend reading it.




[*] Every time I see the name Will.I.Am, I keep wanting to follow it up with that old Chevy Chase line, "...and you're not".

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