A World without Plastic

As I grow older, I have been wondering how human civilization was functioning before the invention of plastic. Plastic, especially the type from the by-product of petroleum, came in practically free in cost. A true miracle. Wood was usually used before, among other material. When finer dimension is needed, wood usually cannot be crafted as precise and hold its shape, metal like brass, copper, iron, steel and later on aluminum (remember not long ago aluminum was considered more precious than gold) were used. Plastic is practically free and come in all kinds of shape, sizes, flexibility or toughness, easy to mold and make. Plastic literally made modern life possible, along with electricity in no lesser importance.

And now, imagine your life without plastic. From the moment you wake up till the time you retire to bed, how much plastic have you encountered in your daily life? And if plastic is removed, what would the things you use be made of?

So I am thinking there exists an invisible line dividing the classical period and the modern in terms of material available, and that is the availability of plastic. I imagine a place where everything is made without plastic. That place will probably be much less convenient and more expensive, but in the same time more intimate and romantic in the sense that the rawness of thing better show their identity and character. Take for example, a plastic toothbrush verses a wooden stem brush with hard plant fiber. Which one has more character? Or consider a plastic pen verses a bronze nib wood handle dip pen. Or something close to everyday life: a plastic mug that never breaks verses a wine glass. There is one notable inclusion in my imagined world though: non-vulcanized rubber, the natural organic material coming from trees, is allowed. This makes a lot of things easier.

This place is where I would want to take a vacation to. It is as if one can travel back in time to experience a vastly different life, while still engage in things you want to do (mostly) in life. And this is not for environmental reason, as the impact of not using plastic is debatable since plastic replace a lot of need to chop down trees or firing up that mill, for instance. This is aesthetically aspired. And this world is not hard to imagine: just find out the time before production of cheap polymer material is available, perhaps, according to the article I quoted above, human civilization before WWII. And from what I read and heard, a lot of people fantasized and loved the romance of Western European world before WWI. Would these be connected? I think so.

Another place I thought of is a place without electricity, but that isn’t much different from doing a wilderness camp. It is easily achievable and it does not really have that travel back in time, experience a different life kind of leap.

I challenge you to make that place possible, perhaps in a room at your house.

This entry was posted in civilization, design, Economics, history, material and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s