Plastic by Susan Freinkel
A Toxic Love Story

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Plastic built the modern world. Where would we be without bike helmets, baggies, toothbrushes, and pacemakers? But a century into our love affair with plastic, we’re starting to realize it’s not such a healthy relationship. Plastics draw on dwindling fossil fuels, leach harmful chemicals, litter landscapes, and destroy marine life. As journalist Susan Freinkel points out in this engaging and eye-opening book, we’re nearing a crisis point. We’ve produced as much plastic in the past decade as we did in the entire twentieth century. We’re drowning in the stuff, and we need to start making some hard choices. 

Freinkel gives us the tools we need with a blend of lively anecdotes and analysis. She combs through scientific studies and economic data, reporting from China and across the United States to assess the real impact of plastic on our lives. She tells her story through eight familiar plastic objects: comb, chair, Frisbee, IV bag, disposable lighter, grocery bag, soda bottle, and credit card. Her conclusion: we cannot stay on our plastic-paved path. And we don’t have to. Plastic points the way toward a new creative partnership with the material we love to hate but can’t seem to live without.


About Susan Freinkel

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SUSAN FREINKEL has written for the New York Times, Discover, Smithsonian, and Health, among other publications. She is the author of The American Chestnut, which Mary Roach called "a perfect book" and Richard Preston described as "a beautifully written account" filled with "top-notch" writing and reporting.
Published April 18, 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 336 pages
Genres: Computers & Technology, Nature & Wildlife, Young Adult, Professional & Technical, Science & Math, Business & Economics, Crafts, Hobbies & Home, Education & Reference, History, Sports & Outdoors. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Early in the book, journalist Freinkel (American Chestnut: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree, 2007) tracks her use of every plasticized object she touches, from toilet seat to light switch to fleece sweatshirt, wondering, “How did my life become so permeated by synthetics without my ...

Apr 18 2011 | Read Full Review of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story

Publishers Weekly

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Freinkel's tour of the history of plastic, as told through the stories of common, everyday items, benefits from Pam Ward's cheery and conversational narration.

Jul 25 2011 | Read Full Review of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story


In researching the history of plastic, San Francisco-based writer Susan Freinkel set out to go a whole day without touching anything plastic.

Apr 19 2011 | Read Full Review of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story

New York Journal of Books

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Some leach out and into food, drink, medicine—even transfusion blood—usually without our knowing it and often with disastrous consequences to our endocrine system.The impact on humankind of plastics entering our systems and leaving behind poisons—such as dioxins and furans derived released from P...

Apr 18 2011 | Read Full Review of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story

Review (Barnes & Noble)

Seriously eco-minded readers might not find much new here, but the recently green and the not-yet-converted will find Plastic: A Toxic Love Story full of facts worth mulling.

Apr 20 2011 | Read Full Review of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story

Review (Barnes & Noble)

The Belgian-born American chemist Leo Baekeland introduced Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic, to the world on this day in 1909.

Feb 05 2013 | Read Full Review of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story

Bookmarks Magazine

Something like the fight over the plastic shopping bag might seem trivial, yet when we grapple with the plastic shopping bag, we’re grappling with our whole throwaway culture—and the environmental problems that culture of convenience has created.

Apr 10 2011 | Read Full Review of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story

Newcity Lit

Saving the reader from the overwhelming list of products available in plastics, she tells the story of plastic through eight common objects: the comb, the chair, the Frisbee, IV bags, lighters, grocery bags, bottles and credit cards.

Apr 13 2011 | Read Full Review of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story


Like most TreeHugger readers I had an ah ha moment a while ago regarding plastics, the ubiquity of them in our lives, the huge problems of disposing or recycling them, the absurdity of using a material that takes anywhere from thousands to billions of years to biodegrade in products destined for ...

Apr 21 2011 | Read Full Review of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story

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