Friday, July 6, 2012


There are lots of pump dispenser nozzles to be found on the beach and plenty of Internet outlets selling fresh ones. All these devices look pretty much the same, a tank turret with the gun barrel drooped down.

An Internet image search presents pumps from Xin Yuan Plastic Manufacturing in Malaysia, then a similar pump from the Rong Mao Xion Plastic Injection Co. of China. A business listing service directs us to tons of plastic merchandise from bowls to beads. Continuing on, the search leads to the American Chemistry Council where we are conveyed to a history of plastic from Celluloid to Bakelite to modern polymer thermo-plastics. Fascinating, and worthy of study since plastic is the background hum of our material world.

These seemingly insignificant pump dispenser nozzles are international travelers bringing us the big story of plastic in our world.

Among all the bits of plastic, spray tips are one more little speck among the mountains of plastic this culture produces. In our artwork they serve as bright rhythmic punctuations. Aerosols and their nozzles have been around since WWII to spray DDT in the tents of soldiers fighting in the Pacific. Furniture polish, air fresheners, WD-40—convenient—but it takes special treatment to recycle the cans.

What boy hasn’t held a lit match under the nozzle of a spray paint can and whooshed out a hissing roaring plume of stinking flame? A thrill secreted in the garage. For girls it was hair spray coming out of those spray tips, lacquering the bouffant—a solid bonnet, safe against a gale.

The good news—CFC’s, the ozone-killing propellant for aerosols, were banned with the Montreal Protocols of 1989, an international effort—a benchmark showing us we can work together to improve this world.

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