Plastic is one of the most significant and beneficial inventions of the modern world and has transformed modern society in such a way that its beneficial uses and positive impacts are too numerous to list.
Plastic has, to some extent, become a victim of its own success. Relatively speaking, plastic is both cheap and easy to manufacture, and it is this positive trait which has led to its poor image.
When compared to plastic, products made from other materials, such as metals or glass, are costly to make or dispose of, and retain an inherent value at the end of their life. Plastic, on the other hand, is cheap to make, lightweight for disposal, and is seen to have little residual value even though it is extremely recyclable. This cheap and easy trait has led to plastic becoming a single use, throwaway item.
One of the key issues with the disposal of plastics, is the way it is discarded and how it breaks down in the environment. Plastic is lightweight and susceptible to floatation and wind, making it very mobile when carelessly disposed of. If you couple this mobility with the durability of plastics, it is easy to see why carelessly discarded plastic has rapidly become a significant environmental problem.
It is not the plastic that has caused the environmental problem, but the careless handling and disposal of what is viewed as a cheap and easily replenished, low-value item. If the long-term value of the environment was taken into consideration, plastic would have a high cost associated with it, and maybe extra care at the end of its life would be taken.
By Darren North