In October of 1940, Fortune magazine published this map of Synthetica: a new continent of plastics. Back then, plastics were an uncharted and exciting frontier.
On this broad but synthetic continent of plastics, the countries march right out of the natural world – that wild area of firs and rubber plantations, upper left – into the illimitable world of the molecule. It’s a world boxed only by the cardinal points of the chemical compass – carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen.
Here’s a particularly interesting statement:
Vinyl-land, a fast-growing new country of safety-glass and rubbery plastics, will probably subdivide soon.
These days, the reality of plastics in the ocean is neither uncharted nor exciting. Last year, the ocean conservation group, 5 Gyres, estimated that there are over 315 billion pounds of plastic in the ocean. If you live in the U.S., and want to get involved in coastal cleanups in your state, there’s a list of people to contact here.