From these perspectives, she examines the role and influence of plastic in chapters that feel like a camera zooming in and out: Close up, the tale of an albatross chick whose stomach became fatally engorged with plastic items mistaken for food. Stepping back, the biography of polyethylene, whose effectiveness as a wire insulator enabled the use of radar in the World War II fighter planes that dropped bombs in Europe and Asia. In between, the stories of those who’ve had their lives altered by plastic, including the once-thriving Black community of Mossville, Louisiana, which now sits in a soup of toxic emissions from, among other things, the manufacture of vinyl chloride — the VC in PVCs.
As it happens, Oregon. Sen. Jeff Merkley recently signed on as a co-sponsor of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, which didn’t get through Congress last year. A press release from his office said the bill is intended “to address the pollution crisis that is poisoning our air, water, and land, and disproportionately impacting communities of color and low-income Americans.” Cobb’s book is a vivid illustration of that crisis.