Peter Rhodes on the end of plastics, the essence of a good scandal and the car that thinks it's a plane

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Plastics – from birth to death
Plastics – from birth to death

They never give up, do they? The idea of a car that turns into an aircraft has been around ever since aircraft and cars first shared this planet. The plane/car hybrid was a staple of boys' comics in the 1950s but the idea rarely came to anything because, depending on the mode selected, you either had a car that drove like a turkey or a plane that flew like a pig.

The latest incarnation of the plane/car thing is called AirCar. It has completed a 35-minute test flight and been acclaimed, probably by people who don't remember 1950s comics. If only for sentimental reasons, I wish it every success. And I bet Dan Dare would, too.

A pundit on the radio was seriously suggesting that, after the Matt Hancock incident, any politician who publicly supported social distancing but privately broke the rules would face the sack for hypocrisy. I'm not convinced. For a scandal to turn lethal it needs one vital ingredient. It must grab the public's attention. And nothing does the job quite like that old devil, sex.

Ask yourself this: how big a story would it have been if Hancock had been secretly filmed standing within two metres of some male colleagues or shaking hands. That would have been in breach of the rules and would surely make him a hypocrite. But if you were a freelance trying to pitch that story, most Fleet Street editors would have shown you the door. It's the buttock-squeeze wot sold it.

A United Nations proposal to ban a compound called UV-328 which is widely used in packaging has been hailed as “the beginning of the end of plastics.” Oh, really?

We are born and placed in a plastic cot. We die and our coffins are fitted with plastic handles. Our first nursery milk comes in plastic bottles. Our last end-of-life medications come in plastic tubes.

In between birth and death we are totally immersed in plastics from the see-through packaging on our supermarket food to the plastic wheelie-bins we “recycle” them in. We wear plastic fibres, our toddlers play with plastic toys and our teenagers text on plastic mobile phones. The cars we drive, once steel and iron, are largely plastic (it seemed like a good idea).

We are so in love with plastics that we make 400 million tons of the stuff every year. Whatever the experts may tell us, the truth is that banning plastics is about as feasible as banning the air we breathe.

While preparing the above item I checked the availability of plastic coffin handles on eBay and was surprised to find a set of four metal coffin handles inscribed RIP and described as “pre-owned.” Probably best not to ask.

I also came across a cardboard coffin with a picture on it of a large stick of explosive. It has a fuse at one end and carries the words: “Dynamite – Handle With Care.” Guaranteed to start a stampede in the crem.

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