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Plastic: A Toxic Love Story

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  1,247 ratings  ·  224 reviews
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 i ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published April 18th 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2011)
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Average rating 3.97  · 
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 ·  1,247 ratings  ·  224 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 5000-2019, lor-2019
I became interested in this book when I saw a show on television, showcasing the detrimental effect plastic is having on our environment and in our oceans. They showed Midway Island. Where an environmentalist had divided plastic garbage into definitive piles. The amounts were staggering, but even worse is that is killing birds and ocean dwellers in horrific numbers.

This book could have been dry, reading about plastic for hundreds of pages, but it wasn't. The author does s great job using common
Beth Terry
Mar 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In the beginning of 2009, I sat in an Oakland Cafe with San Francisco journalist Susan Freinkel, explaining my plastic-free life. She was working on a book about the story of plastic and wanted to hear my point of view, which of course I shared enthusiastically, even dragging her off the butcher shop with me and my stainless steel pot to buy plastic-free meat for my cats.

Now that her book Plastic: A Toxic Love Story has been released, I’m happy to give it a hearty recommendation. This is neither
Jul 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, kindle
An absolute eye opener. As someone who calls herself eco-conscious, I am already aware of the dangers bit and pieces of plastic pose to our health and environment. But I must say I have been oblivious to the history and the science of plastic, and I also refused to think about plastic as a material upon which so much of mankind's modern convenience and, to some extent, survival depends. And to me, plastic is plastic, it is an evil embodiment that we need to strive to banish, starting with the pl ...more
Elsie Hulsizer
May 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
As a sailor I’ve been horrified by plastic litter on remote and otherwise pristine beaches of the coasts of British Columbia and Alaska. “Plastic: A Toxic Love Story” explains how the plastic got there and why it’s so difficult to keep it away. This is a must read for anyone concerned about the environment.

Freinkel’s book is packed with information on plastic: its history, chemistry, manufacturing, uses and disposal. Most of all the book tells how plastic has changed our lives -- from the first
Jan 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
I received this book as an e-galley from NetGalley. After reading it I now know more about plastic than I ever thought possible. This is not necessarily a bad thing, I just had no idea how much there was to know about plastic. Freinkel looks at plastic through the lens of ordinary plastic things we encounter each day with each chapter devoted to a specific plastic object:comb, chair, Frisbee, IV bag, disposable lighter, grocery bag, soda bottle, and credit card. Each chapter delves into the spec ...more
Miina Saarna
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reading2018
A very educational and eye-opening read. This book gives a great overview of the entire history of plastics, both the positive impact plastics have had on our daily lives as well as the more unpleasant sides. An excellent read, strongly recommend.
I became interested in this topic several years ago when I heard of the sea of trash that contaminated the drinking water of the Intuits, then their breast milk and will contaminate all their future generations of people. What??? Indeed. We have so polluted the Earth that the Inuit who live in the Artic Circle, a place I long thought of as mostly pristine, is in fact contaminated!
Contamination by Plastic --can--> Death by Plastic.

So back to the book. Susan Freinkel does not write the best book s
Amy L. Campbell
Feb 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Note: Free review copy provided by Netgalley.

Freinkel does an excellent job of compressing the problems and promises of plastics into a book far more readily digestible than plastic compounds will ever be. The voice of the book changes from chapter to chapter as we are first presented with the inception and introduction of plastic into our society. The chapter about combs reads remarkably like Bill Bryson's "At Home", without quite so much wandering from the original topic. The chapter on plasti
Thomas Edmund
Aug 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
I've become a bit wary of books that look like this - after several environmentally focussed books that have left me negative about the future I don't really want any more.

Luckily as a first point Freinkel is very balanced and optimistic in her writing. Yes she touches on the environmental horrors of plastic and the pseudo-island(s) corrupting the worlds oceans, but she also presents the topic with hope and while not many explicit solutions, good directions and philosophies to adopt (although sh
Apr 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book follows the “life” story of several different common plastic items. Through these various stories, you get to see how plastic was invented, how they came up with ideas for some of the plastic items, the impact plastic is having on the planet, and the impact plastic is having on our bodies.

One of the things that I really liked about this book was that it wasn’t the type of book where they shove their beliefs down your throat. Instead, Susan Freinkel treats the reader as an intelligent p
Jun 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I was afraid to read this because I thought I would walk away depressed and miserable about the toxic imprint plastic has made on my life. Fortunately, the author takes a much more balanced view of the subject. She discusses how plastic has become completely integrated into modern life- in good ways and bad. She does discuss some of the toxic effects of plastic, particularly BPA and PVC, but does not paint as much of a doomsday picture as many. It was rather a balanced discussion of whether we c ...more
Dec 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A comprehensive look at the history, the qualitues, the faults, themaking of and life after the use of the most pervasive material of our modern world.

While the crux of the message was not news, it surely shocked my system into being more and more aware of how unnecessary most of the single-use plastic in our daily life really is. These throwaway conveniences are a symptom of a mentality that is only interested in the comfort of here-and-now, a pattern of behaviour that sadly easily finds a way
Dec 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: informative
A great introduction to our world of buy, use, dump with an emphasis on plastic. Certainly influential in making a few life changes myself.
Ok, that was horrifying. It was also interesting, informative, and comprehensive, but it also was just plain horrifying. Freinkel covers history of plastics, much of which I did not know, and there was much about the manufacturing and use of man-made materials that I knew only the basics about, so I feel I learned a lot from reading this book. The horrifying part is when you read about the sheer volume of plastics made (and thrown out) and see the breakdown of how much of that is single-use crap ...more
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, non-fiction
I was interested in this book because of my interest in the zero waste movement. I've known of the devistating effects that plastic has on our oceans and environment and wanted to learn about how it came to be. This book illustrates the history of plastic very well, from the first comb to the dozens of polymer combinations used in manufacturing. The first part of the book was the least interesting to me because I can't say I care how the first combs were made. I did find it useful, though, to kn ...more
Elise Thanasouras
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this because I was interested in the fact that we are overrun with plastic. To quote the book “We’ve produced nearly as much plastic in the last ten years as we have in all previous decades put together.” Wow, makes you think about what do we really know about this magic substance is currently everywhere. This informative without being too alarming, very well presented.
I powered through this book because it is extremely informative. That being said, it’s also very boring. To me at least! The history of plastic is extensive and the research has definitely been done for this book. I learned a lot it just wasn’t very fun to read.
Dec 16, 2018 marked it as to-read
As seen on 60 minutes
Thomas Tsunami
May 12, 2020 rated it liked it
Had to read it for school so that’s a knock against it. It was ok, it made me think about how lucky I am to not be working in a toy factory in a poor country rather than plastic being bad for the world. So I think it missed its mark a bit.
Drew Schwartz
Dec 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Enviros and Anyone who makes their living selling or producing plastic
As a plastic distributor, I like to read books about the history of plastics. As a Colorado resident, and husband to a professional conservationist, I enjoy learning more about environmental issues. I got a chance to do both when I when I recently read the new book, Plastic; A Toxic Love Story by Susan Freinkel.

The author decided to spend a day without touching anything plastic. But she didn't make it too far. About 10 seconds, she estimates...since both the light switch and the toilet seat in t
James Steele
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
We’ve had plastics since the late 1800‘s. Companies have been using it to create lower-cost products to give common people access to “luxury” goods they would never have been able to afford otherwise. Combs made of tortoise shells and adorned with jewels. Make them out of cellulite for a fraction of the cost, and now everyone can have one.

By reducing the consumption of scarce resources, and reducing the price at the same time, plastics seemed to hold the answer to all of man’s problems. Instead
Kasey Jane
Jan 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Freinkel follows the model of dissecting a topic by assigning iconic representatives to its components. Michael Pollan did this to great effect in The Botany of Desire, and Plastic: A Toxic Love Story shows that this structure is popular because it works.

Each of her eight chapters is assigned to a common plastic item, from comb to credit card. Not only is the history of the item engagingly described -- who knew the politics of furniture design could be so fascinating? -- but each chapter also de
Sep 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Rarely is there a book which says five stars right from the beginning and never veers from that ranking. This book from Susan Freinkel is absolutely such a work. It is first rate popular science, brimming with copious research but never stooping to that great folly of many non-fiction writers: “I researched this subject to death and by golly every detail is going to be shoe-horned in somewhere!” Quite on the contrary, facts flow seamlessly through an easy-going chronicle of the topic.

In the cour
Lamberto Raygoza
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
From baby bottles all the way to our daily water bottles plastic has become a part of the human race. In the story "Plastic: A Toxic Love Story" by Susan Freinkel the narrator paid close attention to the everyday plastic objects which have become a part of our daily lives. Today 90% of children's toys are made of plastic and toys aren't even a quarter of what plastics are used for. The issue at hand is that plastic is non-degradable it will live long past our human lives. If we keep using plasti ...more
Feb 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An up-close and personal look at the plastics industry from the beginning until 2011 when the book was published. Some funny stuff, some scary stuff. Freinkel writes in a clear, factual and straightforward style that makes the information easy to understand. She has done her homework as the many pages of references in the back show, but the book is not a lecture, it's just documentation. I'm going to invest in a steel water bottle.
Aug 14, 2013 rated it liked it
The most interesting thing about this seemed to have been the information on recycling. How pointless it is, to be precise. Maybe not pointless, but at least having much less impact than the expectation of recycling has.

Good information on the history of plastic, its lifecycle, problems and benefits, and its future. Started off slow, but maybe that was because I was just not motivated to read it. I enjoyed it though. I like knowing more about something so pervasive and omnipresent.
Justin Zakoren
Dec 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
A great read, unflinching and balanced in its approach to understanding the problems and challenges of plastic in our daily lives. We are made of plastic, and this book is a great introduction for all interested in understanding what that means for our culture, the environment, and the future.
Galen Johnson
Oct 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Well-written, balanced look at the pros and cons of plastic use, re-use and disposal.
Dec 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing much insight I had to take notes, such as:

*plastics allowed opportunities for people of modest means to become consumers.
*100 billion pound of plastics are produced annually in US and yet there is no exit plan for these additional particles
*the growing reliance on fossil fuels is not limited to just our vehicles, as it has also driven the growth of the modern plastics industry
*more frisbees are sold each year than annual combined sales of baseballs, footballs & soccer balls (...and the
Jennifer Pampuch Borden
Aug 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I listened to this book as an audio book. I do not remember where I picked up the recommendation for this one.
This book left less of a lasting impression than I hoped for. Although I do not really think a book is going to change a relationship with plastic that has been developed by society over several decades. Especially when I am busy and feel financially strapped. The author did a good job of describing the history of plastic. She started by taking us through her consciousness raising activi
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Susan Freinkel is the author of American Chestnut: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree. She is a San Francisco based writer who most often writes about science and medicine. Her articles have appeared in a variety of publications including: Discover, Smithsonian, Reader's Digest, the new York Times, Health and Real Simple. American Chestnut is her first book."

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“For all the environmental troubles single-use shopping bags cause, the much greater impacts are in what they contain. reducing the human footprint means addressing fundamentally unsustainable habits of food consumption, such as expecting strawberries in the depths of winter or buying of seafood that are being fished to the brink of extinction.” 11 likes
“Plastic should be a high value material... [It] should be in products that last a long time, and at the end of the life, you recycle it. To take oil or natural gas that took millions of years to produce and then to make a disposable product that last minutes or seconds, and then to just discard it--I think that's not a good way of using this resource. (Robert Haley)” 8 likes
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