Plastic is everywhere and possibly closer than you think. You might be wearing cotton but I will bet you anything the thread used to sew your clothes is man-made. As for the elastic, buttons and velcro – all synthetic. Your table is wood but the varnish is plastic, your water from plastic pipes, your food from plastic wrappers, even your tin cans are lined with plastic.
In addition to being incredibly versatile, synthetic plastics are cheap. Products that would be extremely expensive if made from natural materials are affordable when made from synthetics. Computers, waterproof jackets, shoes and even furniture are all much more available to very many more people.
All plastics can be recycled. Because they are man-made they can be broken down and remade into new items.
Because they are (mostly) made from oil, and because they can be recycled, they obviously reduce the pressure on other natural resources. They can replace wood and steel and fibres so less land has to be farmed or mined, less forests cut down, less water diverted to irrigation and of course less pesticide pollution. All of which means less pressure on what is left of our wild habitats.
It is a wonderful product and it is easy to just how fantastic it seemed when it was first appeared – but 50 years on and the love affair is turning extremely sour.
Because most plastics are non biodegradable.
Non biodegradable oil based plastics the good, the bad and the ugly
The following points apply to non biodegradable oil based plastics – the commonest forms of plastic. Find out more about other kinds of plastic here.
So versatile… the many kinds of plastic
Plastic is made up single units, monomors of combined in a variety of ways. This process is called polymerisation. Different combinations result in different products. Products as dissimilar as hard machine parts to stuffed toys to glue are all made from plastics. Some products can be easily recognised as “plastic” others are not so obvious. Carrier bags? Plastic! Gel ink – what?? Find out how oil derived plastic is made here…
Then there are the additives….
Different chemicals are added to the base plastic increasing the range of properties.
While the polymers used in base plastics are generally harmless, the potential toxicity of the additives is often unknown and much more research needs to be done on the safe handling and ultimate disposal of these products.
What are plastics used for? just about everything. Have a look at this huge list of products made from synthetic polymers
Perhaps the most amazing thing about plastic is that it doesn’t rot. While every other thing on the planet is decomposing plastic remains unchanged. Find out why here
About 100 million tons of plastic are produced each year and much of it is used to make one-use, disposable items. Because plastic doesn’t biodegrade these items, though only used for moments, last for decades, centuries, possibly forever. We are creating ever lasting rubbish in huge and unsustainable amounts.
Not surprisingly plastic waste is increasing exponentially.It is now polluting the environment,maiming and killing the animals who come in contact with it,and destroying the resources accessed by the poorest.
Dirty, difficult to dispose of, kills animals and possibly carcinogenic and these are just some of the problems. You can find many more here.