Earthworms’ Castings: Shapeley Plastic!

By Jean Ponzi

Brrrring-RING! Thanks for calling Shapeley Plastic, what can we provide today?

I’m looking for some structural panels, various sizes, not large.

I believe we’ve got just the shapes for you. Our stock of packaging forms from LED string lights come square and rectilinear; flat panels with 1-2” depth dimension, plenty of connective openings. Mostly Milk Carton Opaque, with some sizes in what we festively call Yule Tree Green. A good choice for small-scale, light-duty building. 

Hmm, sounds like an option I can use. What have you got for connectors? 

An almost endless supply of plastic-coated wire ties, 100% reclaimed of course. You know how long they last, especially the kind used to bundle the tanglers when we all still bought Plugin Devices. 

If you’re up for zippy hues and connective weave, go with Twist-Twine or Cord Crochet. We have some stock ready-made, and plenty of DIY supplies, both clear-plastic bread-bag grade and that gorgeous frozen veg material.

I always thought that rubbery-feeling bag stuff would be good for something.

Oh my, yes! Sturdy as a broccoli stalk, and so pleasant to handle as you work it into cordage. I can only promise green tones, though. Our supply chain suggests fossil-fooled folks didn’t eat many frozen carrots.

That’s OK, I like legumes. Do you give classes in making these kinds of connectors?

Indeed we do! Our Plasti-Weave Workshop is in such demand, we offer it weekly, taught by our own Ted Three Arrows. Or you can view a recording, but Ted’s coaching – with his poly puns – will be worth an evening of your time. Many of our customers make this a DIY Date. Connection in more ways than one!

Please come by. We’re open Tuesday through Saturday. And sorry to cut this short, I have an interview call coming through. Hello, Shapeley Plastic here. Are you the reporter from Tough Times? 

Yeah, babe. Howdya guess?

I use a calendar. Now, then, shall we talk resins and reuse?

Harrumph. Doin’ my job, are ya?

Actually, enjoying mine! You’re not the first individual meeting our work with skepticism, especially if you’re of Gen Z. The prospect of literally drowning in plastic pollution continues to haunt folks born in that era. This enterprise is not the end-all answer to the issue, but I like to say we have sucked a hole in the vortex!

And so flakin’ chipper about it you are . . . 

Ah, you’ve spoken to our Ted, already! Shapeley Plastic is one product of the Startup Revolution that beneficially persisted. We spun our values out of the movement to Permaculture Growing, from Nature’s knowledge that Solution Can Be Found In Problem. Too much of something, how can we transform potential into genuine use?

Let me tell you, dealing with -esters and -olefins was daunting at first. They seemed so fixed in form. But Nature shows us Change is the only constant, and mechanical options are often less impactful than chemical ones. 

I’ve heard your tagline “Wear Wool, Not Polyester – Don’t Get Fleeced By Wastey Notions.”

Exactly! The mechanical action that felts natural fibers yields insulating, waterproofing “service” better than the best human-made synthetics, without sloughing off micro-fibers that accumulate as toxins. 

As we also say, “Keep Carbon in Seas, Soils and Living Cells – Eschew Polymerization!” I do find that one techno-spiffy, don’t you?

Rolls right off my little gray cells. You claim Shapeley Plastic originated here in St. Louis?

That is totally true. A kind of brilliance arises from where the Geo-Zen practitioners like to call “Middle, Waaaaaay!” Our enterprise was seeded in the Viral Time, when some savvy Homos took advantage of Mom Nature giving us Her Big Time Out, all at the same time, worldwide. 

The Mississippian Culture League (it had a more cumbersome name back then, something to do with geo-political subunits) had launched a research effort to ID plastic pollution along Earth’s Fourth-Largest Watershed. Partners in that project were so encouraged by public response to the process of learning what was in the water, they leap-frogged beyond mere identification to harvesting for end-use. 

Most of what was netted at first was massively flotsam but enough of the stuff was – well, inspiring! Shapes and structures, like children’s building toys. In quantities! Perception of a plague became a Gift From River when our Shapeley founders started to (so sweet how they put it) “mess around.” Ted’s daughter Green Jean expresses it as a sporting cheer: 

Plasti-USE IT! 

Don’t ex-CUSE it! 

Plasti-C-R-A-Flippin’ PEEEE!

 Such a scamp, that one, a PET chip off her dear Dad’s block.

Are you always this . . . exuberant?

Most days, doing this work, yes. Are you always this curmudgeonly?

Bah! Humbug!

That’s what comes from giving children names like Ebeneezer. So much luggage.

Are you dissin’ my family choices? 

No, dear. Just your attitude. I appreciate this interview, but I must sign off. A customer just walked in. (Click!)

Hello, welcome to Shapeley Plastic! What can we provide for you?

I need some containers, please. I’m interested in a material I saw on Anthropocene Legends. I believe it’s known as EPS?

racious me, you’re referring to Expanded Polystyrene. Supposedly “invented” by fossil exploiters at Dow Chemical, but they only colonized the achievement of a Swedish inventor, Carl Munters, by re-patenting his work as “their” product and calling it Styrofoam. Originally used for building docks and watercraft, and for insulating chicken sheds. 

Amazingly lightweight, water-resistant and heat-trapping, it seemed like a miracle product until we realized all those buoyant little beads were breaking apart and accumulating in Earth’s waters, in bird and fish guts – and in ours! The 666 Squad got it banned. It was literally everywhere, but now, with Polyconsumptive Hydrofarming all the rage in coastal and drought-prone regions, it’s almost impossible to find. Thankfully.

What a story! I’m not surprised, but I do need some containers. Stackable, please, and waterproof.

My dear, you will find just the ticket in our Warehouse B. Five-gallon plastic buckets, another “miracle” product with few flaws except for eventual cracking, and we recycle our own scrap into PolySeamSealer to cover that. All our locations carry abundant stock in TidyCat Yellow, HD Orange and – my favorite – LoweBlue. 

Thank you, Shapeley Plastic!

You’re most kindly welcome. And thank YOU for wiping your boots on our Astrograssmat when you came in. Clearly, your relations raised you well.

Jean Ponzi messes around with Green ideas, in podcast conversations from her Earthworms show on KDHX St. Louis Independent Media, and in her sustainability work for the EarthWays Center of Missouri Botanical Garden.