Working closely on this subject I was deeply surprised by the irrationality of the times we are living in, and its distinctive superficiality. However, I want to make clear that I am far from regretting the past. If we talk about environmentalism, in the film Goodbye Again, a heartbreaking love story dating back to the beginning of the ‘60s, Ingrid Bergman comes home one evening, upset because her love story is not working, and her lover is messy and lazy, she smokes one cigarette after another and fills many ashtrays with cigarette butts. Then she takes one of these ashtrays, and empties it out of the window. The setting is the city of Paris. I also remember a television commercial of an olive oil, that said the oil was “Clear as water,” and sure enough the oil was shown as being totally transparent.
Obviously we can find good things in the past, but we can find horrors as well. Things are better today. But I still find incomprehensible that in the context of the overheated discussion on plastic bags and their raising cost, nobody point out that biodegradable plastic degrades only if the temperature is higher than 60 °C. A while ago I had a conversation with an Iranian geologist who told me that if you travel by helicopter to the Lut Desert, in the south-east of Iran, carrying four geranium plants, after 15 minutes the plants are dead. The temperature is 70 °C, with no humidity at all. And in 20 minutes the people carrying the geraniums are dead as well. But it’s difficult to find a supermarket there.
Than I discovered another surprising aspect. 99% of the population, which means all the non-experts, is sure that plastic is plastic. But if you buy packaged ham, the top sheet of the packaging is recyclable, whilst the bottom part is not. The reason is that recycling is an industrial precess with its own technicalities: that is, it’s possible to chip wood, but not metal. And the paradox does not end here. The top sheet could also be recycled if it was possible to separate it from the bottom easily, but this does not happen because people opens the top sheet just enough to get the ham out. The sheet should have a label saying that it’s possible to remove it from the bottom, but it’s never there.
Finally, when packaging ends up in recycling centres, it gets analysed to identify the different kinds of plastic. This happens through instruments that use light emissions that are able to draw the proper distinctions, because of the different absorbing qualities of matter. But if the packaging is black, this obviously does not work! Since we have a lot of complex problems, we should not let the easy ones runadressed. But why does this happen anyway? Probably the reason is intellectual sloppiness, a shallowness that somehow manages to look authoritative. Does anybody have an economic interest in all this? I doubt it’s possible to make money painting packaging in black. Instead if we talk about the problem of plastic being not degradable if the temperature is lower than 60 °C, I came to the conclusion that this must be profitable for somebody. The issue of packaging who has a recyclable top sheet and an unrecyclable bottom part comes from pure sloppy laziness.
I want to stress again that it’s not a question of lack of understanding or knowledge. Actually in the history of technology many passages seem to be characterized by such a dramatically silly vision of things. At the beginning of 20th century for example X rays had just been discovered, and everywhere in Europe and in the United States beauty saloons used them to depilate ladies. Tragically, Madame Curie herself had not properly understood what radiations were, and paid a high price for it.
That’s the way things go. On the other end, if there’s people who think that the way to solve the problem of students using gun machines in schools is having armed teachers... well, this tells us we are living in strange times. Even if this may lead us away from the subject of this section, I take this opportunity to point out that on Facebook there’s a video of an American girl of about ten who gets a Beretta gun as a present. She receives it wrapped in gift paper, but she understands straight away that she is going to get her hands on the dream of her life, just as if she had just heard that a friend was willing to donate her a kidney. She cries, sobs, she can hardly talk, and then finally she picks up the gun, whose recoil could probably rip her shoulder off.