Follow the Material / the Journey of Plankton

April 10, 2018

Although I cannot be completely sure, the lid is probably made of polystyrene. Polystyrene – a synthetic aromatic polymer made from styrene – has a low melting point, is not very resistant to water vapor, hard and brittle, and cheap. It has very weak biodegradable abilities, and is a common find on shores and in oceans. Obviously this material is made by humans, and for human needs (take away coffee cup lids, i.e.), and its qualities are serving neither anyone nor anything outside human kind.

Zooming in a bit more, polystyrene (and synthetic plastics in general) are made of chemicals obtained when refining crude oil. Crude oil is basically buried organic material, but more specifically buried organic chemicals coming from fatty molecules (lipids) of plankton. Accumulated dead plankton on a sea- or lake floor in oxygen-poor water will form organic sediment, which turn into oil when exposed to pressure and heat while sinking further into the earth’s crust. The oil rises, and is pumped to the surface by humans.

It is a weird cycle, starting and ending on the bottom of the sea. Plankton to lid.
Stephen Marshak: Earth: a Portrait of a Planet


Kajsa Larsson

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