Plastic is one of the most ubiquitous materials in society.
In spite of the vehement objections from environmentalists over the world, almost every object an individual comes in contact with in one day will have some plastic component because the benefits of this material are unmatched by any other.
While it’s unnecessary, not to mention burdensome, to completely eliminate plastic consumption in modern society, the impact of plastic on the environment and health is enough to warrant trying to decrease the reliance on plastic composites, and advocate proper recycling.
Firstly, studies in recent years have discovered that the chemicals added to plastics are absorbed by the body and have significant effects on individuals’ health.
Chemicals in plastic like bisphenol A (BPA – used in reusable items water bottles and plastic bottles) and phthalates (used to give plastic its pliability) have been found to disrupt reproductive and hormone functions, respectively. The concern over BPA exposure is such that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently placed a ban on BPA use in infant bottles and other products for babies and toddlers. Not only humans, sea life also ingest the chemicals used in plastics via plastic debris in the ocean.
Globally, around 50% of plastic – approximately 150 million tonnes – is disposed of within one year of purchase. Most of this plastic is incinerated or put in landfill. Incineration releases greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, while landfill is detrimental to soil, water and other ecosystems. Plastic accounts for approximately 10% of generated waste.
There is also the impact on global climate change to consider.
One of the major uses of fossil fuels is the production of plastic, and fossil fuels are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
In order to mitigate the effects that plastic has on the earth and society, it needs to become more sustainable.