Who Would Have Thought?

Who Would Have Thought?

September 2020

I'm always fascinated by how stupid the human race is. In this article I'd like to discuss the consequences of Newton's 300+ year old Third law, which states that to every action there is an equal opposite reaction. When are we going to accept the consequences of this simple and inescapable law?

Let's take a look at two examples.

Manmade Fibres

You know that "manmade fibre" jumper you are wearing, well the "manmade" bit means part plastic. It's called clever marketing and sounds better than "plastic fibre".

Polyester and nylon fibres (plastic) have been used in clothing since the 1950s, but what people never realised (or never told us) was that each time these clothes are chucked in the washing machine they shed micro- and nano-sized particles into the waste water, which eventually finds its way into the rivers, lakes and oceans. It is now estimated that around 5.6 million tonnes have been dumped into the environment in just that past 70 years. Around half this mass (~2.9 million tonnes) has ended up in the rivers and oceans.

What's the solution? Ditch the washing machine? Ditch manmade/plastic clothing? How do we remove the approximately 6 million tonnes of plastic from the environment?

Car Tyres

Here's another that the inventors of the rubber pneumatic tyre never thought about when it was firt invented. Every time a vehicle brakes, accelerates or turns a corner, the tyres wear down through friction and tiny particles become airborne. This produces of the order of 500,000 tonnes of tyre particles annually in Europe alone. Globally, it is estimated tyre wear accounts for nearly half of road transport particulate emissions. It is also the second-largest microplastic pollutant in the oceans after single-use plastic.

We're so dumb.

Device to curb microplastic emissions wins James Dyson award, The Guardian, 17th of September 2020.