Online Archive  
Issue 11 - March 1973

ICI Plastics Division have a newspaper called 'Plastics News' and the last issue of this had a centre page spread that proclaimed in big letters to be 'The truth about plastics and the environment'. The article attempts to convince the reader that plastics are not an environmental problem.

It says there are,

'circumstances where plastics actually assist in the disposal of society's waste products', and later goes on to say,

'plastics play a major part in the fight against pollution - plastic sacks, dustbins and domestic bins have made a valuable contribution to checking noise, dirt and smell involved in waste collection and disposal'.

I fail to see why it's alright to make plastic containers for everything from butter to car oil just because they make plastic dustbins as well.

The article tells you how most plastics, contrary to popular belief, rot under natural conditions, but fails to say how long that is going to take. It also says that plastics burn but has to admit that this is only in proper industrial incinerators.

Then it goes on to say that plastics should be disposed of in holes in the ground,

'gravel and sand quarrying and other similar operations continually provide holes which need filling in for land reclamation'.

Imagine in years to come it might be possible to quarry plastic.

On the same page of 'Plastics News' was an article about ICI's 'watchdog' committee on pollution Dr George Veal, the Plastics Division representative on the committee is quoted as saying,

'ICI has an obligation to conform to legal requirements, and it has a duty to continue to improve the environment. The minimum quality of the environment which the community is prepared to accept is rising. We have a duty to ensure that the environment with which we are associated continues to improve, but this must be at the right pace. The firm has got to be one of the leaders in this field, but at the same time it must not price itself out of the market'.

The watchdog committee is concerned with the,

'proper disposal of solid, liquid and gaseous wastes so that pollution of the countryside, of streams, rivers and estuaries, and of the atmosphere is avoided. It also considers problems of noise, smell and dust'.

With regard to the general public that maybe, but what about the workers at ICI plants.

For example at ICI's massive plastics plant at Wilton on Teesside they seem to be having a bit of a pollution problem in the finishing plant, where they make Propathene (indestructible plastic).

The finishing plant is a large, single storey, open plan building which has no proper ventilation or extractor fans, there is a lot of machinery, and about fifty or so people who work inside.

However, also inside, and working 24 hours a day, are about 15 diesel forklift trucks and so there is a permanent thick blanket of smoke and diesel fumes in which these people have to work. That is apart from all the dangerous, highly inflammable and explosive chemicals they have to work with anyway.

Apparently there are electric forklift trucks on other parts of the site but these are not as fast or efficient as the diesel ones.

When the workers complained an ICI official came along to investigate. He put an instrument up the exhaust of one forklift, he took a reading and said that it was well within the safety level. So it would seem that a person could work for eight hours with his nose up the exhaust pipe and come to no harm.

Who's kidding who?