WI:no plastics

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Brita, Oct 9, 2019.

  1. Brita A wanderer in the Lands of Uchronia

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    So I was talking about plastic bags and environment with a friend of mine and she said things would have been really different and probably better for the planet if no one had ever discovered how to make plastic.

    So what do you think of it: how different things would have been from an ecological, economical etc. point of view if there had never been plastic in the world?
     
  2. Pralaya Well-Known Member

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    Sep 1, 2019
    Plastic is not, and I repeat myself not, the main problem, especially not because plastic is nowadays essential for most industries and services, from the doc at your local hospital, over the various entertainment and technology industries, back to the daily tasks like brushing your teeth. The problem of plastics are that many simply don't recycle or even use them as intended or do not dispose it properly. This world without plastic is one that is still stuck with many more expensive and way less flexible materials like Glass or metals which in turn means that we have safely butterflown away most remotely modern technologies which is arguably worse than a black death destroys Europe TL, since butterflying away Europe and its many nations is not really tied to fundamental facts and reactions that would lead to plastic that vastly improved public and private health, the sciences and last, but not least, our own pockets.
     
  3. Brita A wanderer in the Lands of Uchronia

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    That's not wrong;)
    Actually, I probably didn't express myself very well in the op. I didn't mean that no plastic in the world would be great for the planet. I rather wondered what other industries etc. may have developped instead and the consequences they might've had.
     
  4. Chris Triangle Edits a lot

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    Without plastics, there would be much less solid waste but greater environmental degradation in other ways. This is because many of the roles of plastics would be filled by natural products which would in the first case, result in massive overexploitation of natural ecosystems.

    All rubber is natural, all leather is hide, all household goods are wood, metal and glass.
     
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  5. alexmilman Well-Known Member

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    Well, if she thinks so, she should led by example and stop using all sorts of plastic (starting with her cellphone). Hopefully, in a process of trying to do so she would grow up and learn to use her brains instead of just repeating the politically correct nonsense. :)

    Not sure that a meaningful replacement does exist or can be invented but almost definitely somebody would start moaning about its production being toxic, it being polluting, ecologically bad, etc. Look, coal is bad for the lungs and, AFAIK, Victorian London was a rather dirty place. Excessive usage of wood resulted in deforestation and climate changes. Increased production of cotton killed Sea of Aral and caused ecological problems in the Central Asia. Glass is not biodegradable and neither is bronze. Disposing of the electric batteries is toxic process and, IIRC, rubber has its own problems as well.
     
  6. baltur2 Active Member

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    Aug 30, 2019
    This is somewhat OTL in Hungary:

    Until the mid 1970s, although plastics were used in industrial applications, they weren't released onto the consumer market in the country. Appliances like TVs and radios were housed in wooden boxes, people went to the store and the market with a "cekker" (bag made out of a tightly-woven net, similar to a fishing net), children played in the sandbox with wooden and metal toys, and beverages like beer and soft drinks were simply sold in glass bottles.
     
  7. alexmilman Well-Known Member

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    Just as in the old Soviet Union, all the way to the net shopping bags. Did not prevent pollution and other problems.
     
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  8. Brita A wanderer in the Lands of Uchronia

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    Actually, she has no cellphone and hardly ever uses computers which makes people look at her like she's quite an alien:)

    Agreed.
     
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  9. alexmilman Well-Known Member

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    How about the toothbrushes?
     
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  10. Brita A wanderer in the Lands of Uchronia

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    Wow I didn't even think of that! It's really everywhere:openedeyewink:
     
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  11. altwere Well-Known Member

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    they used to be made out of wood and pi brissells
     
  12. Khanzeer Well-Known Member

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    How about just no plastic shopping bags , no plastic beverage bottles ? Isnt that 50% of the plastic problem ? Maybe I'm exaggerating
     
  13. alexmilman Well-Known Member

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    No plastic shopping bags policy becomes a reality in more than one place in the US. Now, consider the following: plastic shopping bags had been routinely used as the small garbage bags (after you unload your shopping). In their absense you have to buy plastic garbage bags for the same purpose so the plastic bags are still there in the dumpsters (and there are still big plastic garbage bags) and you achieved close to nothing. Then, there are plastic packages into which you are putting meat or fish (unless you want blood all over trunk of your car and then kitchen) and even vegetables (did you notice that in the supermarkets they are routinely sprinkled with water and putting them into a paper bag may not be a good idea if you want it to survive all the way to your home?).

    Paper shopping bags are biodegradable but you need to keep planting the trees. A lot of trees. Or you can go few decades back and always carry with you to a shop various types of the fabric bags.

    How about the biodegradable plastic bags? AFAIK, this type of plastic is widely used for the doggie poop bags so it is not like an idea is too novel or too expensive. I even saw it used for the shopping bags but then “no plastic!” kicked in.

    But the plastic bags are not necessarily even Enemy #1 nowadays because the most evil thing is a plastic straw. In the “advanced” municipalities you are invited to bring one of your own into a restaurant with an option to get a multi-usable one made out of a metal (and to hope that it was washed properly). So far they are still permitted for the medical use but just you wait!

    BTW, getting back to the exclusively glass bottles also would create considerable problems unless one optimistically assumes that most of them are being recycled (and if you believe in such a possibility I can sell you a really nice bridge). Not only glass does not disintegrate naturally (nowadays they are selling costume jewelry made with the pieces of Roman glass), it tends to break into the nasty shards on which you better not step or drive.
     
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  14. alexmilman Well-Known Member

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    Good luck with finding them now (we had been talking about one specific person).
     
  15. Kellan Sullivan Well-Known Member

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    By us they've started handing out paper/cardboard straws with your beverage. Could just be me but I did sorta wonder about that the first time they gave me one. Paper in a liquid, to suck up a liquid. Gee! I wonder why NO ONE did this before.

    By the time you reach the bottom of your glass, you've got a mouthful of soggy paper. The straw's essentially collapsed on itself. Or there's some papery rags floating in your drink.

    Now when they ask me "do you want a straw with that?" I'm just like "so I can save a fish/bird/frog and kill some more trees? Nah, but you do you, buddy"
     
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  16. Kaze Well-Known Member

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    Nov 12, 2017
    They would be replaced with tin, aluminum, cardboard, glass, and other metals.

    How would you like to pay $2'000 dollars for a drinking straw made of pure silver?
     
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  17. alexmilman Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, I just wonder what would be the next designated enemy ....
     
  18. twovultures Best leagues are NFL, FIFA, and Shmalkaldic

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    Alternatively, resources might be used more efficiently even as they are produced in a potentially exploitive way. When I visited the Museum of Design in Gothenberg this summer, they had an exhibit on plastics and alternatives to plastic. The example that stuck out to me was using a mix of sawdust and cow's blood to make a music record, replacing vinyl as the material for the item. In this alternate timeline, I don't think you'd need more lumber and ranching to meet demand to make this sort of record, you'd just need to capture the byproducts of furniture making and butchering on the scale that they exist OTL, at least in the west.

    I imagine that this world's version of the Beatles going to India would get pretty awkward.
     
  19. Miguel Lanius Well-Known Member

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    So... pretty much the Fallout universe but minus the few plastics found there?

    Does it go well with my monocle and tophat, good sir?
     
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  20. yulzari Well-Known Member

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    Dec 15, 2011
    Google 'mate drink straws'' to see silver straws which have been used since @ 17th century. Apart from being reusable for generations silver is somewhat antibacterial. So, yes. Silver straws have some potential.