Rarely is there a book which says five stars right from the beginning and never veers from that ranking. This book from Susan Freinkel is absolutely such a work. It is first rate popular science, brimming with copious research but never stooping to that great folly of many non-fiction writers: “I researched this subject to death and by golly every detail is going to be shoe-horned in somewhere!” Quite on the contrary, facts flow seamlessly through an easy-going chronicle of the topic.
In the course of chapters titled after and loosely based around common plastic items Ms. Freinkel walks her reader through plastic’s design history (the ubiquitous green stacking chair), BPA controversy (IV bags and tubing), cultural history (Frisbee), environmental impact (T-shirt bags), and indestructibility (disposable lighters), among other objects and issues. Coverage of the chemistry involved in the manufacturing of various plastics is especially well done-easily accessible to any reader of popular science with just the right balance of detail and narrative flow.
A book of this nature could clearly become a platform for virulent environmentalism, and it is apparent that the author cares deeply about the environmental impact of plastic. However, she gives balanced press to a plethora of individuals from organizations as diverse as grassroots activists lobbying for bottle taxes to the owner of a Chinese plastic factory. It becomes clear that the issue is many-sided and complicated by many factors.
Plastics play a huge role in our modern world. This book is a short run through the tide they have become. Without a doubt there will be much here that will surprise and enlighten, and you think twice about just about every object that you encounter throughout your average day. If you read one popular science book this year, choose this one for its sheer relevance.