Plastics in the doghouse or dog in the PET house


I feel like I should apologise for yet another jumpers for goalposts recollection, but inevitably here it is……a memory of cold full fat milk from a glass bottle with a silver foil top and a boy in grey shorts and a home knitted blue sweater emblazoned with an I love the Beatles badge. HELP the fab 4’s movie was in the cinema and getting us young things excited.

This blog starts somewhere else, here today in Shanghai a long way from Cornerswell Road, Penarth, Wales.

I have been asked to contribute a dog house design and prototype as part of a US based charity initiative that supports animal welfare. SPARK’s dog house will be auctioned with another 99 dog houses designed by prominent world architects in London next year.
My proposal upcycles discarded plastic (PET 1) containers by reforming them into a dog house (kennel).
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET 1) is the most common of all thermoplastic polymer resins and is generally used in the production of plastic bottles and other miscellaneous containers.

1 million PET 1 plastic bottles are bought by consumers around the world every minute roughly 20,000 every second with sales projected to rise by 2021 to more than half a trillion. 480 billion were sold in the world in 2016.
A huge percentage of this plastic ends up in the ocean, the weight of which is will exceed the combined weight of all ocean fish by 2050

SPARK previously developed a beach house made from recycled HDPE 2 plastic ocean waste collected from the beaches of SE Asia which won a best in class award for innovation at the World Architecture Festival last year.
Our attention is now focussed on PET 1 plastic, this may sound like the number plate of Lady Penelope’s pink Rolls Royce in Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds (FAB 1) but unfortunately not so amusing. PET 1 is the recycling nomenclature for the most prevalent type of plastic, its name is purposely stamped into the base of most containers to assist recycling. However,  80% of PET 1 plastic material produced still finds its way into landfill or the ocean. As a material it is most definitely at home in the proverbial doghouse.

“Is there a life without plastic”, the title of an article I read recently, the journalist tried over a week to live without the use/ purchase of any goods or foods that used plastic.  The idea sounds pretty simple and achievable but developed into a sourcing impossibility from shampoo without the bottle to sausages without their plastic coated wrappings. We have become so reliant on plastics and their multifarious compounds developed by those lab coated super smart physicists at BP Chemicals and others in the 1960’s and 70’s, that we are now engulfed in a sea of polymers that at best take 500 years to recycle.

“Ca plane pour moi”. “Everything is cool”

Plastic (Plastique) Bertrand’s pop song from 1977

Unfortunately Monsieur Bertrand everything is not cool as we once thought.
Plastics were introduced around 70 years ago and a big part of my childhood, us Brits were being americanised by their space age designs. The Jetsons, Earl Tupper and his wares, TV sandwich trays that held the paste sandwiches in a separate compartment from Smiths crisps and the pickled onions and the blue pencil tidy and beige LP storage system that held first pressings of Bolan and Bowie vinyl. The later now Kartell design classics were dispatched via the dust bin men circa 1975 to a South Wales landfill site. I suspect they are still there 15 metres below some new housing estate resting happily 4 decades into their 50 decade decomposition cycle.

Back to the milk story……

The 1/3rd pint glass milk bottles in wire crates sat at the bottom of the staircase at Victoria School, holly was printed on the silver foil aluminium tops. It must have been around Christmas? Stephen Diamond an I were milk monitors of the month. Free calcium for growing bones thanks to Clement Attlee’s free milk act until snatcher Thatcher stole it away years later.

The glass milk bottles were heavy, I could not carry so many in my small hands up and down the glazed tile lined staircases but in retrospect those cast glass bottles would have been reused until eventually recycled in today’s parlance far more easily than their PET 1 and HDPE 2 plastic descendants.

New recycling plants are more than capable of reforming and repurposing most of the plastic we consume so why do we produce more and more? Several US states have adopted a plastic bottle deposit scheme that gets refunded when you return your empties to the shop.
The panoply of everyday ethical living systems should always make room for simple old school solutions. We used to supplement our pocket money in the 1960’s and 70’s by returning the glass Dandelion and Burdock pop bottles to the retailer. The idea was extinct in the UK by 1980 as cheap consumerism of the single use plastic (PET1) bottle took hold. Perhaps we did not fully understand or predict the heavy ecological cost of over plastic production but now its time to reverse our habits and recycle more towards a zero waste society and incentivise people if that what it takes to make things change.

SPARK’s upcycled PET 1 doghouse coming to a back garden near you soon.

SPARK’s doghouse is dedicated to Diggy, a Bloodhound of Epsom who died recently after a short illness.


This entry was published on July 19, 2017 at 6:11 am and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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