Note to self: Don’t buy plastic crap

Now that the weather is closing in, it’s a lot cooler and the days are shorter, and for some unknown reason, it keeps on raining. We have gone from bush fire protection and hazard reduction, to digging drainage ditches. Fortunately we have missed the flooding that is happening just now up the north coast and in Queensland. I suppose that it helps that we live on top of a high ridge of hills. We are very well-drained here.

One good thing about constant rain, is that we don’t have to be worried about bush fires or bother to water the garden, but that time saved is now spent in unclogging drains and cleaning gutters and downpipe sieves.
Some years ago, I thought that I’d save some time and buy a plastic gutter sieve/storm water head thing. What a piece of short-term rubbish that turned out to be. I should have known better. Actually, I do know better, but I’m lazy. I just gave in and bought the easy option. I’ve learnt my lesson – yet again. Now just a couple of years later, it’s all cracked and broken and has become an embarrassing piece of plastic junk, destined for land-fill.
Last week we were at the monthly meeting of the Royal Society. This month’s lecture was from Professor Richard Banati  about the fact that plastic never really decomposes, it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces and traces of it can be found in all life forms where it is ingested along with other food, it builds up in the higher order species and all of it is destined to end up in the top predator. Guess who that is?
Here is a reprint of the Royal Society promo.
“The talk by Professor Richard Banati from ANSTO and Sydney University Faculty of Health Sciences. Plastics in our environment.
Estimates suggest that the planet could have another 33 billion tonnes of plastic by 2050. 33 billion tonnes of plastic is equivalent to filling 2.75 billion garbage trucks enough to wrap around our planet 800 times if lined up end to end.
Scientists estimate that more than 250,000 tonnes of large size plastic litter the ocean surface, this does not take into account  the micro plastics which are  plastic fragments derived from the breakdown of larger plastic debris, both at sea and on land. Over time, a culmination of physical, biological and chemical processes can reduce the structural integrity of plastic debris, resulting in fragmentation of  2-3 mm in length and 0.1mm in diameter.
The whole issue of product life cycle analysis has so far focused on the litter aspect and not the contamination that cannot be seen without studying at the atomic scale.
Richard and his team at ANSTO are collaborating with scientists from Monash University and University of Tasmania and studying whether the trace elements typically found in plastic and  in the stomach of birds, these trace elements are also found in the growth of young bird feathers like the annual rings in trees, thus indicating the effects of degrading plastics in the food chain may affect birds, marine animals as well as humans.        
This is an important chapter of how we deal with plastic waste as hazardous, threatening the health of people and wildlife.?
Professor Banati said that the only way out of this mess is to stop producing the stuff. Not too likely I don’t suppose. We are all addicted to the stuff through our ignorance, indifference and/or laziness.
Anyway, I try not to buy too much plastic crap, but I’m only human and I am lazy with it too, so now I have the job of fixing this broken plastic gutter fitting. It’s all cracked and the collar is broken off, it’s dead. It’s going to land fill. My only real option is to replace it. But not with another plastic one, not again! I decide to use some of our left over off-cuts of kiln building material that I am so reluctant to take to the metal recyclers, just in case I can find another useful life for the little bits here and there, around the place. It doesn’t take long and I find just the right piece of off-cut stainless steel sheet. I adapt my idea in my mind at the concept level and change the dimensions of what I was imagining, to suit what I have. I sketch it out in chalk on the welding bench. I re-design it to use all of what I have with no loss through cutting, then I go searching for some other little bits of stainless sheet off-cuts to make the sides.
IMG_9222 IMG_9220
An hour later I have a rather nice stainless steel rain water head with a 45 degrees diagonal stainless steel leaf-sieve clipped on and ready to go up on the roof. It’s rather rough, but a joy to behold for me, because it is waste forestalled and made entirely out of scrap destined to go to the recyclers, except that it has now been re-imagined and re-purposed into something that will last longer than me or the building that it is now attached to.
I’m no plumber, but this doesn’t have to hold water, just redirect it. I think that it will actually work OK. I don’t have any plumbing training, but I do have a little bit of imagination, some determination and a desire to subvert the system.
Now all I have to do is make a duplicate to replace the one next to it, for when it breaks. Which can’t be too far off?
But then, I’m still stuck with plastic plumbing pipe.
Note to self, don’t buy plastic crap – if there is an alternative.
Nothing lasts, nothing is ever finished and nothing is perfect.
and this could not be more true when applied to plastic roof and gutter fittings.
Best wishes
Steve the lead-free plumber who is trying to reduce his dependance on plastic.
Dr. Steve Harrison PhD. MA (Hons)


Potter, kiln surgeon, clay doctor, wood butcher and Post Modern Peasant.