After it’s discovery in 1869, plastic quickly became the number one packaging material in the world. But it didn’t stop there. We learned about the versatility of plastic and started to use it for a variety of products, including paperclips, spacecrafts and everything in between.
But the optimism didn’t last. As awareness about environmental issues spread, the persistence of plastic waste began to trouble observers. Plastics don’t decompose. They break down into smaller pieces and eventually become microplastics. These fibers roam around our lands and seas for an eternity and as they move up the food chain eventually end up in our body. For example: a portion of mussels contains 75 microplastics, the content of a bottle of water over 300!.
You might have the impression that plastic is pure evil. But what if plastic isn’t the problem, but the way we deal with it?
Let’s imagine a world without plastic. No more plastic waste! But the expiration date of products will now shorten and our food will be more susceptible to contamination. As we replace all plastic car parts vehicles become heavier and CO2 emissions increase. It will also become impossible to produce lifesaving products like helmets, shatter-free glass and prosthetics. We’ll need to use our fancy bio cotton bag over 7000 times before the production of it will have a lower environmental impact compared to a plastic bag. While the production costs increase, only the richest people will be able to afford all of these products.
So, many aspects of plastic are actually quite fantastic: It’s cheap to produce, light weight and very strong! It’s the way we manage the waste that needs to change. Plastic is used excessively and unnecessarily in single use products. Its production and recycling process needs to be regulated. For the products that we do need, scientists are looking for safer and more sustainable solutions. Like bio-plastic made from plant crops instead of fossil oil, truly biodegradable plastic and plastic with self-healing properties, which could be used in transportation and therefore minimize plastic waste.
We’re not there yet. But in an advanced form, plastic is an important and necessary part of our future. Until then: stop buying single use plastics, re-use plastic if possible and separate your waste!
Want to know how you can make your life fantastic with plastic? Check out our infographic!
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