Plastics

Discussion in 'Other' started by Bea, Dec 3, 2017.

  1. Bea

    Bea Member Premium Member GOLD

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    herew is a great article from a fave website grownetwork http://thegrownetwork.com/plastic-in-the-garden/
    Plastic in the Garden: Good or Bad?
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    Earlier this year I had a conversation with my friend Craig of Permie Flix after he asked about plastic in the garden in the comments of my video on making potting soil:

    “I noticed you used a plastic tarp, bag, and bag pots. Most gardeners are cheapskates and do similar. What are your thoughts on plastic use in gardening?”

    I answered:

    “I go back and forth on plastic. I hate throwing it away. I do like the DeWitt/Sunbelt woven nursery fabric for occultation of new beds/no-till. Water comes through from the top but not light. Plus, the stuff will last a decade or so. It’s a pretty good trade-off. As for pots, discarded metal soup cans with holes punched in them work okay. Clay is too expensive. I just don’t see anything other than plastic for nursery work being feasible at this point. These plastic bag pots last for a few years and cost a few cents.”

    Craig in turn raises some good points:

    “Plastic is so useful in ag, and everyone seems to be using plastic green houses, plastic mulch, and fabric row covers like the DeWitt/Sunbelt. Plastic fertilizer bags, plastic pots, fabric pots, plastic trays, plastic irrigation, plastic totes. That’s a lot of plastic in ag. I’ve just been wondering what the Earth’s carry capacity for plastic might be before ecosystems are irreversibly damaged, and how much is acceptable, because I can’t see it’s use going away, only accelerating. I’ve read that the doubling time for plastic is around every 11 years. And that there are end-of-life problems like toxic materials such as heavy metals that leach out of the plastic as the products decay over a span of years. Tad at KIS organics wrote an interesting post about fabric pots last year containing lead and BPA among other things: https://www.kisorganics.com/blogs/news/fabric-pots This week I’ve read two articles, one on the isolated Henderson Island that was found to have 671.6 items per square metre of debris on North Beach, 99.8% of which were plastic. And another that showed of 17 brands of sea salt only one had no microplastic in it. Previous studies in Sydney harbour showed >30% of the mullet sampled had microplastics in their guts, and over 90% of seabirds feast on plastic and then defecate it on land. It’s also entering our soils through ag and municipal compost. I know that worm growth rate is significantly reduced at 28% w/w microplastics and that they distribute microplastics in their casts throughout soils. Considering that plastic was only synthesised in 1907, I’m on the go back side of plastic use and planting directly in the ground where possible. But like you mentioned there aren’t many other options for nursery work if you want to save your back and pocket. And I can’t see consumer demand for biodegradable products making a dent in regulatory or commercial practices anytime soon either.”

    Dang it, Craig, why do you have to be so smart?

    It really is a conundrum. I would certainly like to go without using plastic, yet sometimes there really isn’t a better option.

    What About Other Options?
    Back in Florida people used to ask me, “What about soil blocks for transplants?”

    They’re great except Florida’s “soil” won’t hold together. It’s like beach sand. You have to get some clay from somewhere else to make them stick. And with the time involved in hunting materials, you might as well get some plastic trays.

    When I ran my plant nursery, many of my pots were scavenged from other nurseries. I reused pots over and over again and would give extra plants to people that brought back pots after planting my plants in their gardens . . .

    . . . yet eventually those pots would wear out and be thrown away.

    I don’t like the large amount of plastic ending up in the environment. It’s everywhere. Even recycling may not make sense as I’ve read it takes more energy to recycle plastic than it does to just throw it in a landfill.

    Yet try building a greenhouse without plastic! If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to scavenge old windows, but still—the construction is much more time-consuming than just throwing up a plastic sheet.

    But eventually that plastic wears out and is discarded.

    And what about your rain barrel or cistern? Did you cast one out of concrete? Plastic is a lot cheaper and easier.

    Tough.

    Getting Rid of Plastic?
    It’s tempting to burn plastic to get rid of it, but that releases some nasty toxins into the air.

    “Current research indicates that backyard-burning of waste is far more harmful to our health than previously thought. It can increase the risk of heart disease, aggravate respiratory ailments such as asthma and emphysema, and cause rashes, nausea, or headaches, damages in the nervous system, kidney or liver, in the reproductive and development system.

    The burning of polystyrene polymers—such as foam cups, meat trays, egg containers, yogurt and deli containers—releases styrene. Styrene gas can readily be absorbed through the skin and lungs. At high levels styrene vapor can damage the eyes and mucous membranes. Long-term exposure to styrene can affect the central nervous system, causing headaches, fatigue, weakness,
    and depression.”


    Yeah, that’s no fun. You can also burn yourself if you run through the ashes barefoot. My little brother did that when he was a kid, stepping on a piece of molten plastic and burning his heel badly.

    Takeaway: don’t run through molten plastic and ashes barefoot.
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    That brother is a firefighter now. No kidding.
    All burning of plastic may not be bad, however. There may be the possibility of using plastic as fuel in the near future:

    “Burning plastic in the traditional manner creates extremely polluting byproducts, as evidenced by the black smoke produced by the cup. But this didn’t thwart Levendis, who noted that plastic contains the same amount of energy per pound as premium fuel.

    “We wanted to tackle the problem by preprocessing the plastics,” said Chuanwei Zhuo, a doctoral candidate in Levendis’ lab. Toward that end, the team developed a combustion system that adds a simple step to the burning process that allows for turning plastic into a fuel that burns just as cleanly as natural gas.

    That simple step has a daunting name: pyrolytic gasification. Instead of directly setting the cup aflame with a match in the open air, the team’s reactor heats the material to a whopping 800 degrees Celsius in a completely oxygen-free environment. This causes the plastic to become a gas, which is then mixed with air before it is burned as a clean fuel.”

    So is Plastic in the Garden Good or Evil?
    Realistically, it’s probably evil—yet it’s an evil without good alternatives right now, at least that I can find.

    And sometimes it’s an “evil” that is so useful it might push on through to being good. Herrick Kimball’s “Minibeds on Plastic” gardening idea, for instance.


    That’s pretty impressive.

    Plastic, though! Plastic! It’s a conundrum.

    I like it when people like Craig ask, “have you thought about . . . ?”

    I’ll keep thinking about plastic in the garden. I’m still on the fence. I don’t like the environmental impact, but I also don’t know what else to use. Greenhouses, pots, weed barriers, cisterns, row covers . . . plastic everywhere!

    So, what are your thoughts?

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  2. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Wow, Bea, such an informative article & yes to the thinking processes of good V evil products.

    Unless you find land that has not already been polluted by plastics, I think it is now a done deal that it is everywhere in microscopic particle form.

    When I came to this property, I knew it had always been organic but when I attempted to gain organic certification 3.5yrs ago (7yrs after moving here, meaning I've been here 10.5yrs) I was told to stop using chemical grass killers. But I wasn't! It wasn't until another 2yrs went by that I realised the chemicals were in the dam water which I was blithely watering everywhere in the dry season that was polluting the whole of my 2ac garden & orchard area. Then there was the guy on the neighbouring property who built a massive shed right against my orchard fence & proceeded to repair tractors there & empty the oil all around the shed to prevent grass growth. So the run-off came into my place just a little but since it was in my orchard area it meant my fruit could not gain certification.
    Now I have another land holder who has recently built a massive shed on 1ac cutting he created into the hillside of a property that joins onto my back fence & which is the head waters of the creek that runs through my back paddock. Now I see run-off coming down the creek since we had this latest big rain event. So my back paddocks are now polluted also.
    There is plastic pellet wrap laying around his shed area as well as his road building machinery which he repairs on his new flat area which drains run-off into the creek that flows through my place.
    Soon that plastic will break down in the sun & those micro beads will run through my place whether I like it or not. Plus there will be the oil & fuel pollution too from his machinery.
    There is no escape from all forms of pollution these days.
    I am sad & deflated that after attempting so hard & at such significant cost to gain organic certification, I am thwarted by unthinking people & by actions totally out of my control.

    Then there's the noise pollution at all hours of the day & night 24/7 from all that machinery, mowers, trucks & tractors with their beeping & revving which is another thing entirely.:(
     
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  3. Bea

    Bea Member Premium Member GOLD

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    O M G. how do you put up with it all? are there no regulations? So sorry. what are you going to do?
     
  4. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Well I'm stranded here now due to mortgage & old age!
    Just have to bite my tongue & make the best of it.

    There are heaps of regs, but this is a rural residential area where the blocks are all acreage, meaning people can do some rural pursuits although not quite to the extent of my engineering neighbour to my right past the orchard. But his family are some of the pioneers to this district which (in his mind anyway) gives him privileges beyond mere mortals & certainly, beyond new comers like me!

    However the guy on the hillside behind me is in a different shire(municipal area) & his property is zoned rural meaning he can do just about anything. That block is part of a cattle property that was cut up into 100ac blocks by the state gov't after a failed dam project meant the land had to be sold back to the public. But when I saw the survey pegs all across the hillside I should have sold up right then!

    Yes my heart sunk when I saw the big cutting being bulldozed over there because I just knew it was not a good sign. And its not the only activity going on that side of the ridge of hills that face to my direction. Others are putting 'crap' on their blocks too.

    So when I saw the dozers at work I realized it would be either a massive high end house with blaring lights all night or some other industrial pursuit. So I got the latter....for now at any rate. Who knows if there will still be some grandiose mansion erupt out of the ground to further pollute the waterway & view.:(
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2017
  5. Bea

    Bea Member Premium Member GOLD

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    people can be brutes. before i moved here taxis used to line up along one side of the central park and keep their motors running. It was the expats who launched an anti-pollution campaign and won! they didnt go all rowdy but actually talked to the drivers, the surrounding businesses and the council. it is wonderful now.
     
  6. Robyn67

    Robyn67 Active Member Premium Member GOLD

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    I tired valiantly to go plastic free and it is just so incredibly hard. Almost every grocery item has some form of plastic - even toilet paper which you could buy plastic free is now only in plastic. We decided at one point that we would not buy anything in plastic unless absolutely vital - we would either make it or go without. But at some point bit by bit we began weaken. It truely is one of the hardest things to do. Shopping takes twice as long and costs more.

    Around 10-12 years ago I was in europe and I remember that there was a charge on manufacturers for the recycling or rather non recycling of their products basically to reduce plastics and stop the over packaging of items. But a few years later that seemed to have changed and I guess the fact is that they couldn't do it as like most of the world most products come from another country and it would unfairly affect local manufacturers.

    My in laws live in Holland. My father in law (who lives in an apartment) has to put his rubbish in a computerised bin outside the apartment complex. He is only charged for the weight of his rubbish - encouraging him to reduce his rubbish.

    And if you haven't heard about it, go to
    http://www.plasticfreejuly.org Great information and helps to try to mobilise people for at least one month of the year and perhaps change some aspects of their life permanently.
     
  7. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Not too far from me in the Sunshine Coast hinterland (Queensland) is an organic supermarket called Kunara (at Forest Glen for those who might live in or handy to the Sunshine Coast region).

    They are all geared up to be plastic free. If you are eating a good diet, half of all you buy there can be purchased in loose bulk. They provide corn starch 'paper' bags to use to hold your bulk loose items. Those bags are then composted in your system at home.

    Other grocery items such as dries on the shelves must be sold in certain cellophane or similar bags or brown paper bags including toilet paper!

    Fruit & veg is all loose bulk & some liquid items are sold from vats. You either pay for one of their environmentally friendly take away containers
    or you bring your own & they fill it after zeroing the scales.

    Many wet items are sold in glass & those jars can be returned for refilling. I don't think they offer a refund on empty jars as yet. Other wet items must be packaged in 100% recyclable plastic such as milk (due to the federal laws on the sale of milk products stipulating what it can & cant be stored in). Many of their suppliers do use glass bottles these days. Some items are sold in aluminium although they are trying to get away from that due to the amount of energy used to manufacture the ali.

    Yes everything costs more there but then you are buying certified organic, high welfare, Australian made &/or grown, ethically produced or other environmental indicator. So you can shop there knowing they have already done the hard yards to sort out what is suitable or not.

    When I can afford it I do shop there & some items I buy in bulk to last me 3-4mths until I can afford to shop there again, purely because those food items are far better than I can buy in a supermarket.
     
  8. Robyn67

    Robyn67 Active Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Thats fantastic.

    We have a shop in town that is an organic fruit and veg, only open a couple of days a week. But they don't sell in any bags either and the best part is you can bring your own home grown in and they will pay you for it and then sell it.

    To be honest I've only shopped there a couple of times as its quite expensive. I bought one of the Sommerland chickens from there, it was frozen, but my gosh it was incredibly expensive. And to be honest, I didn't think there was a quality difference either, in fact my husband thought it was a bit tough. I use a butcher in town who only sells pasture raised, free range or organic of all his meat - and its fantastic. Obviously more expensive than the supermarket but the taste is amazing and the price difference is affordable.

    I think one of our health food stores allows us to buy a lot of dry goods, flour etc in a bring your own bag. They have it in big containers and you just buy what you need. I don't tend to need much of that stuff though as we don't use many legumes or a variety of flours etc.

    When I make my own bread I wrap it in linen - but my machine is playing up and making such a noise I'm worried to use it in case I burn the place down, and I'm a bit too lazy to do it all by hand, I'm hoping Santa brings me a new one as it was great making our own bread and pizza bases, but I've been buying for last 6 weeks.

    I would like to see more of the regular supermarket items not in plastic or reduced plastic. Like toilet paper, sugar, no packaging of fruit and veg in plastic, milk in glass, soft drink in glass, biscuits not doubly packed in plastic (like a tray and then wrapped in plastic, biscuits that woolies and coles makes and puts in a plastic box put in paper or card board or as a pick your own and place in bags like they do with some of their bread rolls. I could go on.
     
  9. DarrenP

    DarrenP Active Member Premium Member GOLD

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    This is a subject that I am very keen on.
    Have you seen the "War on Waste" that was on the ABC earlier this year (in Australia for people elsewhere)? It was an eye opener. That led us to look at what we did and bought. It also led to looking at plastics.
    Instead of "plastic-free", which is almost impossible, think of it as "single use plastic-free". That means cutting out, or minimising plastic that is used once, and then thrown out or recycled. My wife has made bags with drawstring tops for when we buy fruit and veg, to cut out the plastic bags; we also no longer buy any of the packaged fruit and veg in the supermarkets when we can avoid it. We save all of our soft plastic that we still get, and return it to our local Coles supermarket. Their bins for recycling plastic shopping bags will also accept all other soft plastics.
    Regarding the plastic in the garden/shed, we recycle and reuse all plastic containers for use outside. Cream containers make great little pots for seedlings to give away, yoghurt containers are handy for storing things in the shed, or as paint holders when painting (although my wife has started making our own yoghurt).
    We have looked at our purchasing too. Now we buy sugar in a 2 kilo pack because it comes in paper, unlike the 1kg that is in plastic. We also buy toilet paper in the biggest pack we can, to minimise the packaging.
    With these measures, as well as looking at other packaging in our lives, we have cut back both our rubbish and our recycling.
    Reduce, reuse, and then recycle.
     
  10. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    One of the most insidious elements of plastics are the microbeads.
    They are in everything these days. From cosmetics to sunscreen.
    They are so small they can go right into our body when applied to our skin.
    They end up in organs from where there is no escape so our internal organs begin to plasticize.
    Most of them get peed out eventually & end up in the sea because there is no filter small enough to capture them from the municipal treated sewerage water that is pumped into rivers & streams.
    So fish ingest the microbeads & we eat the fish.
    Pretty much all sunscreen for kids is full of microbeads these days as is skin cream for people's faces.
    It wouldn't surprise me if they ended up inside the cells of embryos & become part of the developing foetus.

    Plasticizing people!:eek:
     
  11. DarrenP

    DarrenP Active Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Coca Cola refuses to use recycled plastic in its bottles. "Our customers wouldn't like the look" is their response. And plastic is washing up in Antarctica now, as well as other remote beaches around the world.
     
  12. letsgo

    letsgo Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Wow sooo much info to read and process. I think it would just about be impossible to go completely plastic free in every aspect of our lives. We used to have paper bags for everything even supermarket bags, sometimes the bottoms did fall out.

    A lot of logging has stopped in areas to save the trees and damage to the climate etc. but that’s also where we got the paper for the brown bags, of course these days lots of paper is recycled but it does have to start somewhere.

    We recycle as much plastic as we can. We built our raised bed out of corrugated colourbond/iron with timber edges. The iron was off cuts from house jobs.

    My fruit trees are now being moved into Root Pouches which are mostly made from recycled plastic bottles.

    With plastic in the garden we don’t want them to break down too quickly like pots, so we can reuse and keep costs down.
     
  13. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Plastics have been amazingly good for humanity also but I understand the focus about this subject is on throw-away plastics that should be recycled but instead are mindlessly littered into the environment.

    If there was a collection payment for every kg of plastic like the old days when I was a kid collecting coke bottles or cans, it would help incentify people to collect it for cash and ensure it's recycled.

    As far as being toxic in the garden via the use of pots etc, I doubt this poses any serious risk to health at all. If plastics were that toxic to humans we would have seen substantial evidence of it by now since just about everything we touch, use, wrap, store food in, is plastic.

    What I agree on totally, is that humans need to do much better at keeping rubbish out of the natural environment because it's awful how wildlife is being affected by discarded plastics in waterways and other areas - just terrible.
     

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