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December 5, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 47


Letters to the editor

Plastics recycling.

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The C&EN Oct. 12 cover story on plastics recycling (page 26) was quite interesting and well done. It described, in a relatively small number of paragraphs, the problem, people who are working on solutions to the problem, and people who question whether the solutions are suitable. I am pleased that various perspectives were presented. I address my comments to the latter group, the critics of various approaches to plastics waste management. Three thoughts come to mind:

1. It is relatively easy to criticize people who are investing human talent and financial resources to develop improvements to the overall issue of waste management. (As an aside, while plastics are a significant concern, they are only one element of the waste management challenge.)

2. Have we forgotten so soon why plastics became so dominant in the first place? I can remember family members suffering injuries when glass shampoo bottles broke in the bathtub. Or how about contamination of food or medical supplies that were packaged in wax paper or cardboard? Or how about the depletion of resources such as forests or ivory? Plastics were intended to reduce these problems.

3. The approach to simply use less doesn’t address the problem. Chemists have given humanity the ability to scratch into the earth, extract useful substances, and convert them into products on which fellow humans depend for survival and dignity. This is done with the application of chemistry. The application of chemistry can, and must, also be used to address how human beings can continue to use matter in an intelligent manner, and this includes waste processing.

Michael Kerner
Lisle, Illinois

While I agree with the letter writer in the Oct. 19 issue (page 5) that a magazine essentially representing the scientific accomplishments of its membership should not indulge in political campaigns by featuring a Democratic candidate for political office—namely, Nancy Goroff—it is refreshing that a scientist has entered the political field.

In colonial times and with essentially an agrarian and commercial economy, it was expected that the leaders of our nation, including both president and Congress, would come from backgrounds consistent with the needs of our population. To the contrary, at the present time, when the US has become technologically driven, we still have retained and voted into office many times individuals who have little or no scientific backgrounds to lead our scientifically oriented economy and who many times act as critics or opponents of our technology needs.

Certainly other nations have seen fit with excellent results to place scientifically trained individuals in prominent positions, as evidenced in Great Britain by Margaret Thatcher, who majored and worked in the chemical field, and in Germany by Angela Merkel, who trained as a physicist. It is time that the we recognize that we have become a technically driven nation and choose individuals with that orientation. Surely the present administration is an example of failure to rely on our scientific community.

Nelson Marans
New York City


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