The Plus Side of Plastics

If you ever think of plastics, you would always think of the negatives. One might of its non-biodegradable aspect and its effects to the environment. However, many people really forget the many things that plastics have helped in making humanity into what it is now. It is considered one of the most important inventions of human history, after all. Imagine a life without plastic. Those of you who would say “a better life” might be right; however, there are many things that would not be possible right now without plastic. The first car made by Henry Ford was made of plastic in some parts fo example. The formation of this “miracle” chemical led to advancements in many aspects of human life like technology, medicine and even food packaging.

Let us discuss what is plastic first. The term “plastic” is actually an umbrella term for many types of polymers, a compound made of organic materials. It was also used before for any kind of “plastic” or moldable material like resin and gum. These were considered as the first natural plastic. On the other hand, the first man-made plastic was called parkensine and, when processed, could resemble ivory. Other kinds of plastics were developed and during World War II, mass production had commenced in the United States. At first, people were apprehensive of using this product. However, due to its low cost and versatility, many people opened to using it. Eventually, plastic became one of the most well-known materials, even replacing wood, ceramic and steel.

There are many environment advocates who want to ban plastic and their reasons are understandable. Due to its very long degradation process (500 to 1000 years on average), it could stay and pollute the earth. Burning plastics does not help either as its chemicals can destroy the ozone. However, it is very difficult to replace plastic because of its affordability and “plasticity”. For example, many food companies use BPA-free plastic containers to lengthen a product’s shelf life. If this product does not have its plastic covering, it will rot and would also contribute to the thinning of the ozone layer. Many infrastructures today also mix plastic with other materials to build its foundations. If we go back to using wood again, it would still contribute to the destruction of forests. We have to face the fact that it is very difficult to find a suitable replacement for plastic.

With responsible use, plastic can be a great friend. Its long life can actually be an advantage since it could replace many materials that are endangered today. The key to this is humanity’s sense of responsibility. Plastic is a gift to us humans and we must use it wisely. We should practice recycling to minimize its effects to the environment. Let us not haphazardly throw it away everywhere or this could turn back to us. The great knowledge of us humans has given us the power to create such things and we must take action now before it is too late.

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