Do we have a chemist around here? Dearieme?

This story of the tallow in bank notes fascinates. As far as I can work it back the tallow is a source of stearates, which are used as lubricants and declumping agents and lots of other stuff.

I’m not sure if tallow is the only source or just one of alternatives. And again, as far as I can see, it seems to be part of all polyethylene. And possible of other plastics too?

The question I’d like an answer to though, is, if it’s the main or usual source, this tallow, of the stearates which end up aiding in making the plastics of the bristles on a toothbrush?

Anyone know?

22 thoughts on “Do we have a chemist around here? Dearieme?”

  1. I believe (having done half an undergraduate degree in chemistry 25 years ago) that it’s one of those scientific names for common substances: basically, it’s not so much that tallow is a source of stearates as that stearates are the class of things that are derived from tallow. Although chemistry being chemistry, this broader definition now applies to a narrower class of compounds and it’s possible to get them from other sources too.

    I believe that there are some good vegetable sources of it, but although it’s possible to get it from veggies nobody really does because there’s a load of tallow going spare that might as well be rendered down 🙂 So veggie sources are more expensive because you have to go out of your way to get hold of them.

    And yes, I think the stuff gets used all over the place. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s used in toothbrushes.

  2. A quick Google throws up patent US 5141290 A, which includes as claim 9 “A process for producing a toothbrush as claimed in claim 8 wherein said hydrophobic polymer is selected from stearic acid, cellulose derivatives, polyethylenes, methacrylic acid polymers.”

  3. Doesn’t almost every industrial product have some extract of pig in it?

    If this is true – and I hope it is – where can one go for an Halal toothbrush?

  4. @jgh

    indeed…. aren’t there organisations that certifies things as halal / kosher? I wonder why the journos haven’t been knocking on their doors – the BBC at the head of the queue…

  5. Hmm. Halal dildoes for LGBTXYZ Muslims …?

    @tomo

    Just a small nitpick — the BBC doesn’t employ journalists any more, only activists.

  6. So if these notes are not ‘halal’ (lol), and once all UK notes are made the same way as the new £5 notes, does this mean Islamist groups here won’t launder cash to buy weapons any more?

  7. The most depressing (though predictable) aspect of this is the grovelling of the BoE.
    The correct response was ‘The UK government has no legal or moral obligation to ensure that vegetarians do not come into contact with animal products.’
    Job done.

  8. Cocoa butter, coconut oil and palm oil among others. There was a big push to find alternatives for medical equipment post BSE.

    From the little I know, the choice of lubricant can impact the characteristics of the plastic – make it softer for instance.

    There’s also cost and environmental impact when it comes to cocoa butter, coconut and palm oil. All have to be significantly processed.

    I’d have thought we’d all want to stay away from more palm oil plantations. But if it means the veggies can feel virtuous, who are we to worry about the orangs…

  9. I was looking this up yesterday. As Pellinor said, tallow is the cheapest source of stearic acid and stearates as otherwise it’s a waste product. As you can not be 100% sure that you’ve separated the product stearates from the original tallow, the manufacturers say “may contains traces of”, just like “free from” foods will have “made in a factory that handles wheat/nuts/whatever” on the packet.

    Stearates are used in pretty much every injection molded plastic object, as stabilisers, anti-block, anti-static or slip agents or as other functional processing aids. They’re also used in the manufacture of car and bicycle tires. The latter should give holier than thou cycling vegans a nervous breakdown.

    Generally it seems if you wish to be 100% vegan you should abandon modern life, stay out of cities, and make everything you need from natural sources you grow yourself. This would probably make most non-vegans quite happy as well as they’d be less preached at. Otherwise you can simply accept the animal was dead anyway so you might as well make best use of it.

  10. @TMB,

    I suspect this story might just generate a market for halal toothbrushes in Cologne. Shall we get in first?

  11. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Vegans. FFS. People who define themselves by what they stick in their or other people’s orifices are the most fucking tedious cunts on the planet.

  12. My first thought was “Indian Mutiny”. My second was “don’t eat the bloody fivers then”. My third was that the BoE should print special fivers made using tallow-substitutes and charge £5.05 for them.

    The nutters can then debate whether they want the tallow-substitute synthesised from petrochemicals, thus rewarding Big Oil, or from vegetable matter, thus giving them a chance to fret about whether the vegetation was cultivated according to ‘organic’ dogma.

    I didn’t give the science much thought, being busy with refreshing my contempt for pseudo-religions, apart, of course, from my perennial enquiry: how does the bloody molecule know that it came from a cow?

  13. Bloke in North Dorset

    FFS. The BoE isn’t asking veggies to eat the damned things. Do those complaining go round avoiding touching anything that may have come from slaughtered animals?

  14. Political vegans (as opposed to the normal don’t-eat-animal-products-or-wear-leather vegans, several of whom I know and have done a massive shrug at this story) are not trying to avoid touching things. They want to get all animal products out of general-purpose supply chains.

    Their objective is that the only things that animal products should be used for are specific supply chains leading to identifiable animal products (food, leather clothes and shoes, etc). This would isolate all animal products into a specific sector of the economy, so waste animal products become waste and can’t be recycled or reprocessed.

    Tim’s article on Forbes completely misses the point, getting animals entirely out of global supply chains is the entire objective of the political vegans who are stirring this up. Everyone else (the halal, kosher, Hindu stuff) are people that the vegans are trying to drag in, not people who particularly gave a damn beforehand.

    Their objective is to have an economy that only kills animals specifically for people who want dead animals (ie to eat them or wear them).

    As for toothbrushes, the bristles are nylon (animal free) but the handles are probably injection-moulded plastic and may well use tallow-derived stearates.

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