Polymer Alley

It’s scrap polymer season here in the Midwest.

I just drove from Chicago to Indianapolis and back. It’s wonderful to see middle-America’s rich farmland stretched out for miles in every direction, thawed and moist, ready for planting.

I was much more struck though by the mile after mile, ton after ton of plastic trash I saw along Interstate 65 (which I’m now calling Polymer Alley).

It occurred to me that the plastic waste really stands out right now, in the very early Spring. During the Winter it was covered over with snow and ice. Soon much of it will be hidden again, camouflaged by lush green undergrowth and overgrowth. But right now it stands in stark relief against the once beautiful farmland.

Primarily I saw miles and miles of plastic sheeting- sheeting hanging in the fences, sheeting stretched out on the ground, sheeting twisted into the brances of trees. Also abundant though were buckets, ice chests, shovels, sandals, shovels, traffic pylons, a smashed child’s car seat and all manner of similar land-locked flotsam.

I recalled that I had also noticed a tremendous amount of plastic trash in Arizona last year driving from Tucson to Phoenix and back. The scene puzzled me, but now I understand it. Arizona’s desert has neither snow nor vegetation to hide their waste-polymer crop.

Driving home this weekend I toyed with the idea of doing a photography project where I walked along one single mile of Interstate 65 and just photographed each and every piece of plastic waste, then put the photos up in a gallery or a book. I quickly realized, though, that if I limited the project to about 100 yards of highway I’d still be overwhelmed. I could probably do a more effective job and still fill a book, even limiting my scope to the space between the shoulder and the fence rows, ignoring the stuff I could see sticking up from the fields for several hundred yards away from the road.

It’s unlikely I’ll complete that project, so in the spirit of Abbie Hoffman, feel free to Steal This Idea.

If you’re not sure why all this plastic bothers me (and should bother you) read my August, 2007 newsletter here.


  1. by susie inverso on May 29, 2008  9:42 pm Reply

    Ban the Plastic Bag!! I just might steal your idea, daunting though it may be.

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