When it comes to plastic, it is hard to imagine our society without the same for plastic is ubiquitous in the sense that we utilize the same for almost anything – from manufacturing to storage. And yet, when we consider the question of plastic and our dependence on the same, we can see that it gets a really bad rep. Even though we use plastic across all industries including bottled water, we seem to have just wised up to the notion that plastic contains dangerous and toxic compounds but the issue is that, as of this moment, there does not seem to be a viable alternative. Given the current situation with global warming and the urgent need on our part to reduce the carbon footprint, perhaps it is time that we analyzed the positive and negative effects of plastic.
Positive impact of plastic:
- Durability: One of the reasons that plastic sees wide application across several verticals is the fact that it is extremely durable and can withstand natural elements better than most other substances. Depending on the type of plastic and make, it can last anywhere from 50 years to 1000 years and that’s a lot, whichever way you look at it.
- Longer shelf life: Plastic is just perfect for storing perishables; bottles with a plastic seal on the top form an airtight seal that effectively helps to keep the food products fresh and prevents cross contamination. This is why plastic is often the preferred packaging material where perishable food materials are concerned.
- Food safety: with stronger airtight seals in the form of plastic, manufacturers are able to transport food products to other locations across the world, while ensuring that the product in question is safe from any cross contamination.
- Lightweight: Another factor that weighs heavily in plastic’s favour is that it is lightweight and quite strong. This is one of the main reasons that plastic is utilized over other materials when it comes to transporting large heavy packages, as opposed to say, metal. With plastic crates, you can reuse them to transport other stuff, or use it to store items but the point is that being extremely lightweight and strong, makes it the preferred choice for most companies.
Negative impact of plastic:
- Toxicity: Companies utilize several toxic substances to create plastic to the designed hardness – the problem though is that plastics are susceptible to heat damage and cannot withstand a sudden drastic increase in temperature. And as the temperature rises, this can cause the plastic to release harmful substances in the form of noxious gases. This is why it is advised that you recycle your plastic containers after usage and do not reuse the same often, as this can cause the plastic to decompose after a while and in the process, release these toxic substances into the environment.
- Pollution: Currently we utilize plastic in almost everything and naturally our garbage collection points are overflowing with plastic waste, from bottles to plastic bags. The problem though is that plastic is extremely durable and meant to last anywhere from 50 to 1000 years. In other words, w need to find an effective way to dispose of the plastic for the moment it is causing widespread pollution that has started to affect even natural food chains with obvious consequences.
- Energy: A recent study clearly highlighted the fact that it costs the US taxpayer more to manufacture plastic bottles and to recycle the same. In fact, it was estimated that the amount of energy taken to manufacture bottled drinking water should be enough to power nearly 190000 homes all year around. That should help put things in perspective and underscore our need for a viable alternative.
- Suffocation: As landfills fill up, plastic eventually finds its way to the ocean and at various points; the plastic garbage has formed a sort of cover that’s almost the size of Africa which is staggering indeed. With more plastic refuse being added to such Gyres daily, it is literally choking the life out of our oceans and suffocating the organisms within. It is time that the governments took effective measures to protect and preserve the environment.
These are some of the positive and negative effects of plastic; at the moment, plastic is essential but one hopes that a viable alternative will be found soon. Moreover, governments are well poised to take effective action to limit these gyres and prevent the suffocation of all life in the oceans. It is time that we as a society took affirmative action instead of just having a discussion on the same before we run out of time.