What is better: a crimplene suit or a tattoo?

If we could make a suit out of a bottle, maybe we could also make a bottle out of a suit. Or at least a screw top.

A friend of mine once said that he would rather have a crimplene suit than a tattoo, because you can always give up wearing such a suit while a tattoo is more difficult to get rid of.

It is worth remembering that crimplene is a fabric made of artificial fibers. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Polish clothing industry stopped trading in beetroot-and-plum-colored suits made of this fabric. The crimplene suit quickly became a symbol of the tastelessness and incompetence of the Polish clothing industry.

To make things funnier, the decision to build crimplene production lines and purchase the requisite production license was taken only after [the government] had noticed that [private] traders were buying this product in the West and bringing it to Poland in order to sell it at bazaars and resale shops. However, the fashion for crimplene soon passed, leaving the production lines and terrible suits in its wake.

I was reminded of this when I came across a suit made entirely of polyester that had been placed neatly atop a pile of empty mineral water bottles in a plastic recycling container. Perhaps this suit had actually been mineral water bottles earlier.

Shortly thereafter, I was relating this story to someone when I was told that the suit should be deposited in the mixed garbage. Honestly, I was outraged. Like this! This is a product entirely made of plastic. It doesn't contain as much as a gram or millimeter of natural fiber. Just artificial material. If it was possible to make a suit out of a PET [polyethylene terephthalate] bottle, shouldn't it be possible to make a bottle out of a suit? Or at least a screw cap.

I pose this question both as a research and technology improvement issue. If we are to struggle, let's struggle until the end.

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Now standing at a refuse dump, I'm wondering what should be disposed of where. Is it mixed or artificial? Glass or artificial? Fortunately, metal goes where plastic goes. The biggest problem is with assorted packaging, combinations of paper, pseudo-paper, metal, plastic and God knows what else. I try my best, but I don't always know. Wouldn't it be environmentally friendly if manufacturers were required to tell me where to throw everything? Since tags on clothes have turned into phone books, I see no reason why signs indicating where to throw things shouldn’t be developed similarly. Surely we have more interesting things to do than analyzing some packaging?

In the past, faux teddy bear fur was non-ecological and simply artificial. Now it is ecological while real leather is a non-ecological material. Of course, I understand that other evaluation criteria have emerged. Today the term "ecological" is supposed to mean "ethical" -- i.e. obtained without animals having to suffer and so on. One can even concur with such lines of argument, citing moral issues, and come to terms with the fact that one wears immorally obtained shoes, as in leather footwear. However, it is difficult to call artificial fur an ecological product, since it is not. True, it may be the lesser of two evils, but that's all it is. And the question remains, where to throw such products away.

  Once we thought of wool, cotton and linen as natural fabrics. In the 1960s and 1970s, they symbolized a return to nature. Today, it turns out that artificial fibers are supposed to be best for the climate since less water is used in producing them. I dare say that the chemical industry shows great sensitivity when it comes to the natural environment. Doubtless it is a generous sponsor of organizations dedicated to climate awareness.

I know people who don't iron their clothes out of concern for the climate, yet they travel long distances every year (by plane, of course). Just like the German couple in the film "The Last Generation", who failed to appear at the hearing into their "ecological" excesses (demolishing museums), because they had flown to Asia on vacation.

What was the rat looking for in the glass waste?

A few years ago, in the emergency room at the hospital, I was having a conversation with a lady. Since we shared a common IV pole, we were more or less stuck with one another. It transpired that she was an activist with some "green" group and she began lecturing me as though I needed to know "how to live in harmony with nature". At first I remained relatively passive, probably because my drip feed was not yet having the desired effect. However, I revived about halfway through the dose. The lady's reaction was the very opposite. So halfway through our drips, our roles reversed.
It was at this point that the lady raised the issue of eco-diversity, citing by way of example the rights of a rat that visits her terraced house in the green part of the capital.

"We don't want to kill it," she said firmly, although perhaps not as assertively as she had spoken at the onset of the discussion. "We cannot interfere with its ecosystem. We are the intruders here."
"I would defend my own ecosystem though," I ventured shyly, yet more boldly than at the beginning of the conversation.
"NO!” the lady interjected in a shouted whisper. "It is us who interfered with its natural surroundings."
"No, ma'am, this may sound cynical, but I would kill that rat, although I doubt there was only one. You simply won't be able to deal with them later," I spoke as one not expecting understanding from the other side.
"We will try to coexist," the lady whispered in tones of moral superiority.

Conversations in emergency rooms have the advantage of ending at some point. My drip had run out.

During an Internet outage some time ago, the installer pointed out to me that the cables from the manhole had been bitten through by rats, indicating that this was the cause of our problems. "I'm telling you, they love these cables -- they eat them like dessert," he said.

So we can safely say that rats also have access to the Internet and that they are not satisfied only with sorted garbage. Recently, for example, I saw a rat penetrating a container holding waste glass. Isn't that interesting?

Ecological PRL

Recently, we made a TV program about how, paradoxically, we lived more ecologically in the Polish People's Republic. Back then, people were forced to do so because circumstances resulting from living in a system of economic shortages dictated that this should be so. Each product could remain useful, often turning out to have multiple functions reflecting the needs and creativity of a given user.

For example, to a housewife, a kefir container might serve as a jelly mold, while for a gardener, it was a place for seedlings. An old newspaper could be used in a hundred ways -- for packing in the store, as a pad in a drawer. Housewives lined their garbage cans with them. Some people used newspaper as wrapping paper. We know from movies that gangsters cut up newspapers in sizes to resemble banknotes. In short, whatever was thrown away had already been completely used up.

On the other side, contrastingly, was an industry that polluted and wasted terribly. Out of this industrial waste, emerged the concept of recyclables. Officially, "private businesses" could use only this industrial waste and they did so to make high-quality products.

In the mid-1970s, there was a lot of news about a certain "private businessman" who used what he found in the landfills of refuse dumps of large industrial plants for his line of production. When this came to light, he was severely punished and the Tax Office dealt with him very effectively. Nothing happened to the industrial plants that had thrown full-value semi-finished products into such garbage dumps.

It's a little different now, but basically remains the same. You buy a washing machine and you immediately know that in five years it will end up in the trash. Any repair will significantly outweigh its value. This applies to almost all industrial products. Does ecology mean that after a relatively short period of use, an item must be taken to an e-waste yard?

From what I see, most people want to act non-invasively in their everyday lives and not interfere with the natural environment. But it is also difficult for them to understand that they have to take complete responsibility for the costs involved. This is especially true when it comes to products that could have a longer utility life span. After all, technological changes are not so revolutionary that they need to be changed very often. But who cares?

– Grzegorz Sieczkowski

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

– Translated by Agnieszka Rakoczy
Main photo: Warsaw, January 1989. Moda Polska Spring Collection Fashion Show at the Palace of Culture and Science. Photo: PAP/Tadeusz Zagoździński
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