Plastic built the modern world. Where would we be without bike helmets, baggies, toothbrushes, and pacemakers? But a century into our love affair with plastic, we’re starting to realize it’s not such a healthy relationship. Plastics draw on dwindling fossil fuels, leach harmful chemicals, litter landscapes, and destroy marine life. As journalist Susan Freinkel points out in this engaging and eye-opening book, we’re nearing a crisis point. We’ve produced as much plastic in the past decade as we did in the entire twentieth century. We’re drowning in the stuff, and we need to start making some hard choices.
Freinkel gives us the tools we need with a blend of lively anecdotes and analysis. She combs through scientific studies and economic data, reporting from China and across the United States to assess the real impact of plastic on our lives. She tells her story through eight familiar plastic objects: comb, chair, Frisbee, IV bag, disposable lighter, grocery bag, soda bottle, and credit card. Her conclusion: we cannot stay on our plastic-paved path. And we don’t have to. Plastic points the way toward a new creative partnership with the material we love to hate but can’t seem to live without.
About the Author
SUSAN FREINKEL has written for the New York Times, Discover, Smithsonian, and Health, among other publications. She is the author of The American Chestnut, which Mary Roach called a perfect book and Richard Preston described as a beautifully written account filled with top-notch writing and reporting.
"It turns out that plastic is not only an ongoing environmental peril, but a compulsively interesting story. This well-reported and lively history helps us see the last decades in a different light. Buy it (with cash)."
—Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth, founder 350.org
—Annie Leonard, author of The Story of Stuff "In a world glutted and fouled with fake plastic crap we never missed during nearly our entire history, Susan Freinkel's timely book on the subject is the real thing. No animals or children were harmed by its writing, I'm sure—but thanks to her diligence, a whole lot of them just might be saved."
—Alan Weisman, author of The World Without Us
"Plastic is everywhere, and Susan Freinkel explains why. Plastic: A Toxic Love Story is gracefully written and deeply informative."
—Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe
—David de Rothschild, Leader of the Plastiki Expedition "Who’d have thought that combs, Frisbees and lighters could have such secret histories and such disturbing futures? Susan Freinkel’s page-turner brings together history, science and culture to help us understand the plastic world that we have wrought, and has become part of us. Although we should all worry that plastics will persist for centuries, Plastic deserves to endure for years to come."
—Raj Patel, author of The Value of Nothing "Susan Freinkel’s book exponentially increased my desirous love and my hate for plastic. What a great read—rigorous, smart, inspiring, and as seductive as plastic itself."
—Karim Rashid, Designer "What is plastic, really? Where does it come from? How did my life become so permeated by synthetics without my even trying?" Surrounded by plastic and depressed by the political, environmental, and medical consequences of our dependence on it, Freinkel (The American Chestnut) chronicles our history with plastic, "from enraptured embrace to deep disenchantment," through eight household items including the comb, credit card, and soda bottle (celluloid, one of the first synthetics, transformed the comb from a luxury item to an affordable commodity and was once heralded for relieving the pressure on elephants and tortoises for their ivory and shells). She takes readers to factories in China, where women toil 60-hour weeks for $175 a month to make Frisbees; to preemie wards, where the lifesaving vinyl tubes that deliver food and oxygen to premature babies may cause altered thyroid function, allergies, and liver problems later in life. Freinkel's smart, well-written analysis of this love-hate relationship is likely to make plastic lovers take pause, plastic haters reluctantly realize its value, and all of us understand the importance of individual action, political will, and technological innovation in weaning us off our addiction to synthetics. (Apr.)
"An informative treatise on our complicated and dependent relationship with plastic...Freinkel presents a balanced, well-researched investigation into a controversial and versatile human creation." --Kirkus "Susan Freinkel had me from the minute I finished reading about her attempt to try to live without plastic for a week...Ms. Freinkel has penned a fascinating—and at times extremely disturbing—book about material that has literally invaded and, as her research reveals, infected every aspect of modern life."--New York Journal of Books "I have rarely, if ever, come across a book that I would describe as "perfect." However, after finishing Plastic, I was convinced that the appellation might well be accurate, not only for American Chestnut, but possibly for Plastic as well." --James Arnett, The Brooklyn Rail
"Susan Freinkel's book, "Plastic: A Toxic Love Story" is evenhanded, thorough, riveting and often lyrical." --Cleveland Plain Dealer"Evenhanded investigation."--Salon "It's impossible to read her book without developing an appreciation for and a concern about the role that plastic plays in our lives."--The Columbus Dispatch "Exhaustively researched and extremely readable, this eye-opening book has the potential, even, to influence a cultural change." --Kelly Roark, NewCity Lit "Susan Freinkel's book is an even-handed, thorough, riveting and often lyrical biography of plastics, also full of eccentric human players"--Star Tribune