Fused plastic fabric diverts waste from the landfill, but is it green? Let’s weigh the pros and cons!
A couple of weeks ago, I fused plastic to make fabric for a couple of craft projects. Since I’m pregnant, I took the “well-ventilated area” thing seriously and carried my supplies, ironing board and all, out onto the back porch, then donned a very attractive white paper face mask while I ironed. While I was out there pressing and flipping my grocery bags, I got to thinking about whether this is truly a green fabric or not.
The Downside to Fusing Plastic
The reason that folks say to crack a window open when you’re fusing plastic is because heating plastic causes it to off-gas. Off-gassing is when a material – usually a synthetic one – releases harmful chemicals into the air. You can’t always smell these chemicals, but off-gassing from plastic is linked to all kinds of health problems, from respiratory problems to cancer.
Sure, when you take it outside and put on a face mask, you’re probably protecting yourself, but you’re still releasing that stuff into the air. What’s the combined impact on our air quality, and what would it be if more and more people began making fused plastic fabric?
The Upside to Fused Plastic Fabric
What’s great about fused plastic fabric is that it takes a single-use petroleum product that’s landfill-bound and turns it into something usable again.
Plastic bags, like other disposable plastics in our lives, do more than just take up space in the landfill. In fact, since plastic bags are so light, they often blow off of trash trucks and barges. Remember that inspiring scene with the plastic bag blowing in the wind from American Beauty? Those dancing bags often make their way into local waterways and eventually out to sea.
When they get into the water, plastic bags look like food to a lot of marine life. Animals choke on plastic bags or starve because the bags make them feel full, when what they’re eating has no nutrients to keep them alive. If they don’t get eaten, they make their way to one of the huge plastic gyyres – dead zones in the middle of the ocean, where nothing can live.
Diverting these bags from the waste stream is definitely a win for the environment.
So, what do you think?
I feel like there are strong pros and cons to fusing plastic for crafting, and I’m genuinely torn about whether the upsides outweigh the downsides of this material. Do you consider fused plastic a green fabric? If you make fused plastic, what safety precautions do you take, if any? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, and please take a second to vote in our poll!