NPE Diary Vol. 1: Arriving to the Plastics Show in a Plastic Plane with Plastic Luggage

The first in a daily series of thoughts, musings, rants and rambles from a PLASTICS professional attending his second NPE. In this edition, the author counts the number of plastic objects he sees from his seat on the plane ride to Orlando. Spoiler alert: there's a lot of them.


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My Lyft driver is named Tom and he’s quiet on our ride to the airport. By this point—the day before the show starts, as I work my way to Reagan National Airport—I’ve already determined what I’m going to write about for this first diary entry: list all the plastic items I see on the plane that takes me to Orlando for NPE2018: The Plastics Show, and then discuss how plastic makes life possible but often goes overlooked.

When Tom merges onto 395 (probably going a tad too fast) I figure, “why wait till I get on the plane to start counting?” I look around and begin:

  • The dash.
  • The gear shift.
  • The steering wheel.
  • The radio panel.
  • The mirrors.
  • The headrests.
  • The backseat.
  • The foam under the seats and the headrests.
  • The size adjustment thing on the back of Tom’s Washington Nationals baseball cap.
  • The buttons on the radio.
  • The A/C vents.

All of these are plastic. Some are ornamental (I don’t know if I’d notice the absence of A/C vents in my car) and others are vital (the steering wheel, Tom’s hat-size adjustment thing, etc.). But they’re all plastic.

And I’m sure I’ve barely scratched the surface of what else is plastic in the car that’s ferrying me to the airport, where I’ll pass through a security area that’s rife with plastic items, then eat an overpriced lunch with plastic cutlery, and ultimately board an Airbus 320 that probably depends on plastic to fly.

Speaking of the plane:

  • The panels on the walls.
  • The foam in the seats (again).
  • The windows.
  • The sliding window covers
  • The tray table holding up my laptop, where I’m writing this column.
  • The little widget that keeps the tray table up (in its upright and locked position).
  • The overhead bins.
  • The net that keeps those first-class flyers safe from us savages in coach.
  • The twisty knob that controls the air vents.

And again, I know I’m barely scratching the surface here.

If it wasn’t already clear by my use of the term “twisty knob,” I am not a plastics expert. This might be my second NPE, but I’ve always found that there’s never a shortage of things to learn about this industry. There’s always something to wow you—something remarkable about just how many people and how much machinery, time, innovation, chemistry, brainpower and good old-fashioned hard work go into making a material that doesn’t get enough love for making life go.

I’m excited to see what’s new in 2018, and excited to share my thoughts, rants, rambles and musings with you every morning in this space. Have a safe, productive NPE and Tom, if you’re reading this, thanks for the ride.