Divesting of Oil the Somerville Way

By Arthur Moore

The divesting of oil by Somerville has been discussed many times by our elected officials. They even banned plastic bags because they are made from oil and stay in the landfill for many years. Yet I see this city has decided to install a vast quantity of flexposts. Clearly an oil made product in material and the process of making them. With so many laying in the street that will end up in landfills it’s just another thing we need to avoid. Here is how they are made.

Polyethylene

Our FlexPost-SM™ product line is composed of high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Polyethylene, (C2H4)n,is one of the most produced plastics in the world. Trash bags, tubes, and bottles are all created using polyethylene. Specifically, high-density polyethylene is used in milk bottles, children’s toys, and cutting boards. HDPE is stiffer and stronger than other types of polyethylene because of its high crystalline structure. The high crystalline structure results from a lack of branches that allow polymer chains to stick closely to one another during the production process.

Similar to other great discoveries, polyethylene was produced on accident in the late 1800’s. However, mass production and true appreciation of polyethylene would be seen many decades later. During World War II, polyethylene was used secretly as an insulating material for military radar. Over the next few years, the secret of polyethylene got out and was produced commercially. Production and demand grew exponentially due to its strength, impact-resistance, and durability.

How it’s made

Polyethylene is produced by cracking naphtha in crude oil. Cracking is simply using heat to break down hydrocarbons. Ethylene is released through this heating process. The gas is then liquified and pushed through small holes of a plate. While solidifying, the polyethylene is cut into small pieces that will be eventually melted down to be used in various products. The density of polyethylene can be manipulated by applying varying degrees of pressure during the production process. Higher density polyethylene is created by applying lower pressure while lower density polyethylene results from higher pressure.

Do we really want this in our landfills? I don’t. And even at that why the overuse of these? Certainly the amount we use is overkill. Look at what it takes to even install one of these. I watched going by that we had two big city trucks and three men at the pole. One installing and the other two standing there. This is crazy and much of it so wasteful. Look at what was once Powder House Circle a nice historic place nothing more than a stupid field of plastic poles killing what beauty we once had in this city. And yet it makes us support the oil industry and long term landfill fill. Which will be here for generations. Plus shortly they will be littering the streets and sidewalks for months as I pass them all the time. Must be a Somerville thing.

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