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This word — it means a person who tries to avoid plastics — suddenly appeared from nowhere last weekend in a British newspaper and has since been widely picked up by news outlets worldwide:

When Thomas Smith, a chemistry PhD student from Manchester, was given a plastic lid for his takeaway tea by the staff at his university café, he had a novel comeback. “I can’t take that,” he said. “I’m a plasticarian.”

Independent on Sunday, 9 Jun. 2013.

Part of the stimulus for it was a report by the UK’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists the previous week that advised pregnant women to avoid food in plastic containers where possible. This was precautionary advice that referred to endocrine disrupters found in some plastics which can disrupt normal fetal development. Another reason for wanting to avoid plastics is their adverse effect on the environment. For this reason, a few people have been trying to live without them, though it has proved almost impossible because the stuff is everywhere.

Plasticarian is generated from plastic by adding the -arian ending that creates adjectives referring to systems of thought or belief — humanitarian, libertarian or vegetarian. However, it’s very rare in asserting opposition rather than acceptance — it strictly ought to be anti-plasticarian, though the implication behind it seems to be a positive bias in favour of the environment. I’ve had one sighting of the noun, plasticarianism.

The earliest example that I know of in this sense is this:

Becoming a plasticarian will affect my life and my diet, but that is the point. I want to see how integrated this disposable plastic is in our convenient lives.

http://disposableplastic.blogspot.co.uk, 15 Jul. 2012.

There are a couple of usages in Google Groups from a decade ago but the meaning is the more obvious inverse — somebody who has an interest in or a liking for plastics.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 22 Jun. 2013

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 22 June 2013.