Policy Change > Individual Action: A history

When industry slows, we will all inevitably relate differenly to the goods we consume. Corporations respond to buying patterns so we do have power where we place our dollars. But the emphasis on lifestyle changes amongst consumers as a way of changing the world is misplaced; it is less efficient to focus on rallying the masses when sweeping change can come from above.

Goverment contracts from WWII through today have supported the plastic industry and allowed it to blossom into the abundant, toxic wellspring that it is today. In 1944 the US government put down $1 Billion for private companies to construct plants across the states to develop a synthetic rubber alternative. It was one of the first successes of mass-produced synthetics. Injection molding, a process of shooting liquid plastic into premade molds, allowed for continuous mass production. Between 1940 and 1945, US plastic production tripled, largely in part to the significant government investment.

After the war, synthetics factories were bursting with “tupperware, Formica tables, fiberglass chairs…hula hoops, disposable Bic pens, polyester liesure suits, silly putty, and nylon pantyhose” [GONE TOMORROW, 120]. As the markets became overly saturated with products, the polymer industry had to get creative about new ways to expand business. Low-cost and expendability became the focus and so disposables were born. Suddenly there were “disposable diapers, plates, cups, lobster bibs, shelf lining, medical exam gloves.” [121]

The first disposable fashion object were sunglasses produced by a plastic molding company in Massachusettes called Foster Grant. Their styles were affordable and so frequently redesigned to entice customers to toss out their old shades in favor of the next and the new.

Fashion obsolescence and single-use goods led way for disposable packaging and containers as an additional way to consume polymers.

In the 1950s, Modern Plastics Magazine wrote, “It is only a matter of time until the public accepts the plastic cups as more convenient containers that are completely discardable.

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