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Video 1. What do we think we know about plastic?

An average consumer today perceives plastic mostly as an end product in the form of grocery bags, food packaging and many other things of daily use. It’s no surprise that they fail to immediately realise the lengthy journey these tiny plastic goods have made to optimise our daily lives. However, the more intriguing part is that once such product is used up, it inevitably becomes part of the category of toxic waste. Eventually, both the prevalence of plastic in the commodity turnover and the disregard for its value as a material are taken for granted, fitting into the norms of the so-called linear economy with its heedless “Take, make, waste!” motto. This also contributes to another common perception of plastic: as a foreign entity at the Earth’s surface. Following this logic, one might think of plastic as if it were a foreign substance brought from outer space, in other words, refuse in whose production no earthling is involved.

What usually is missing in this viewpoint is the notion of plastic’s origin. Before plastic, as a substance, is produced, the elements it’s made of cannot be rightfully called plastic. Firstly, natural materials such as cellulose, coal, natural gas, salt and crude oil must be extracted from the ground. Secondly, they must undergo chemical treatments involving polymerisation and polycondensation, which will transform them into what consequently will be used in production of various goods. Surely, such complex processes cannot be taken for granted, and neither should plastic! It is no less part of our culture than any other substance, considering that culture involves the purposeful handling and transformation of any natural resource by human hands. Therefore, plastic and its practical treatment remain no less significant than the search for theoretical ways to address the issue.