Plastic’s progress

The fall of communism meant, among other more important things, the beginning of the plastic-venerating era in my tribe. Our pantry, still garnished with home-cooked winter preserves as in the old times of scarcity, gave way to lively-colored plastic containers bearing homemade wine, tomato juice and other products I had not yet grown to appreciate for their true value, underneath labels of products that I had dreamt of during all my childhood years. But I don’t think I had these commodities in mind when seeking occasions to acquire new containers for our pantry (most of them were not bottles of products we had consumed ourselves): it was a purely aesthetic admiration. And this was long before I had heard of Warhol. Plastic bags were the object of a similar fascination, if adorned with minimal imagery: beautiful typography was enough to make them desirable, for example bags advertising cigarettes were  always a wonderful catch. If the handles were broken, I would re-attach them – the faded red colour of the plastic bags fully served their term in this unconscious manifesto of adhesion to a form of the other-wordly.

My grandfather was a big collector of plastic bottles, for purely utilitarian reasons. He would go out of his way to bring more into the collection, and they crossed through the limbo of detergent for days before being definitively adopted in their new office. As more and more of them became available, there was an inevitable period of decay, and a regrettable source of waste before any official options of recycling became available. But their colours and shapes still play an important part in Romanian market landscapes and pantry arrangements. Sure enough, plastic bottles disfigure green spaces, pavements, beaches, rivers, etc. But there is still something there, in a culture that is built on a principle of zero waste, that gives nobility to the generous plastic bottle, which lives its many lives in a continuous chain when it happens to fall in the hands of an industrious producer.


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Plastic made me talk like I never did on this blog. I’ll stop here and let you dream about the plastic bottle’s pilgrimage from one content to another and the evolution of plastic natures in front of these bottles of borsch and tomato (and red chilli?) juice. I came across them during a trip to the market last week.


  1. Lucky – or unlucky – you, depending on how smooth or otherwise the transition is from one stage of our life to another… Lucky you, I should say, to remember. And lucky us to forget enough to live on, although not enough to ever be able to capture it all (this plastic business) in a purely environmental-friendly policy. Alas, the schizophrenia of belonging, that one can never hope to find a cure for. But would you ever trade it in for a piecemeal history?


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