Archaeoplasticology?

posted 27 May 2018, 08:26 by Harp Archaeology
Archaeometallurgy, the study of the history and use of metals; Archaeobotany, the study of plant remains utilised by humans in the past; Archaeozoology, the study of animal remains; Archaeoplasticology…..?? No, it’s not a new discipline for the study of the history and use of plastics, although who knows, give it a bit more time and it may well be. Unsurprisingly, plastic is not something that we often come across in the archaeological record. With the first human made, chemically derived plastics created in the second half of the 19th century, mass production of plastics didn’t take off until the 1940s and 50s; hence our limited exposure to plastics in the archaeological record. So, as an archaeological organisation, why are we discussing plastic here? As is the case with many people, we have become aware, and increasingly concerned, by the amount of plastic that is currently being consumed throughout the world, and the potential harm to the environment that this will have, particularly the consumption of single use plastics, and non-recyclables.

As we are  heading into our next field season for Jacobites, Clearance and Scots!, we thought it was timely to share with you some of our thoughts and changes we are in the process of making. Whilst we are a small organisation, and on the whole environmentally conscious, we have decided to take a very hard look at the amount of plastic that we use/consume, and try to find as many ways as possible to help reduce our plastic consumption. Whilst we always recycle plastics where possible, we are very keen to reduce our purchase, and use, of plastics where possible, as the reduction in consumption will be key to help reduce the overall need for plastics. 

But how much plastic do we really use anyway? When we sat down to look over our main uses for plastics we were actually quite surprised at the amounts. From collecting and storing environmental soil samples in heavy duty plastic bags, to providing packed lunches to our field school participants, to using plastic bottled water on sites in locations where drinking water is not available, we actually use more single use plastic than we thought.

So what are we going to do about it?  With this short blog we are launching our own internal campaign to reduce our plastic consumption, and to change our habits and apparent dependence on plastics, particularly single use plastics. We will be sharing our ideas and results on social media, which will hopefully inspire others to change their thoughts and approaches, and when we find products and organisations that share our ethos we will be sharing their ideas too.

On all of our projects and field schools we engage with new audiences and participants, and we hope with our new approach we will be able to encourage them to change their attitudes to, and consumption of, plastics. If we can help to reduce the consumption of plastics, then we might help to delay the development of Archaeoplasticology that little bit longer.

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