Plastic: A synthetic material made from a wide range of organic polymers such as polyethylene, PVC, nylon, etc., that can be molded into shape while soft and then set into a rigid or slightly elastic form.
There is no denying that plastics are a brilliant innovation- It is cheap, convenient and versatile. In the modern world, it would be hard to find yourself in a position where you can’t spot at least a few plastics. Out clothes are made from them, our food is stored in them and our entertainment systems are cased in them. Leak-proof and child-proof plastic containers house our harmful household chemicals such as bleach.
Perhaps our love of, and reliance on plastics has gone a little too far? Just like smoking used to be known for its ‘health benefits’, and penny farthings were advertised as a safe mode of transport for the elderly, through research, it has been found that storing food/drink in *certain* plastic containers leaches *small* toxins into the food. These toxins (BPA and PBDEs) are linked to miscarriages, prostate cancer, birth defects and hormone and reproductive system damage Perhaps that simile is a little far fetched, but the research doesn’t lie. However, as our lives are so intertwined with the use of plastic food packaging, I don’t see this changing anytime soon. Also, unless we have an alternative which is as good, or better than plastics for the purposes of use, the convenience far outweighs the risks.
The real problem however, is how we view plastics as a disposable commodity. Recycling has become ingrained in our lifestyle, which is great. But it doesn’t yet go far enough. In terms of recycling, there are 7 different types of plastics, with an eighth category for all of the other types that don’t fit in. Only one or two of these plastic types are recycled in each council, the rest goes to landfill. The only way for most plastics to be broken down is for them to be exposed to sunlight. This is why your swimming cap may break down after a lot of use, but when digging in the dirt as a kid you may have dug up a juice bottle years and years old. So when we try to hide all of our rubbish under the ground, we are just preserving the majority of it for years to come.
Even worse, litterers throw plastics on the beach which either ends up killing marine life, or turns up at the great Pacific garbage patch. The Pacific garbage patch is made up of all plastics- non biodegradable items that have a lower density than water. Currently this floating dump is estimated to be twice as large as the US. There is nothing to deal with the rubbish in it though. All we can do is stop polluting our waters, and wait for the plastics in the sea swill to break down.