The Pros & Cons Of Plastic

The Pros & Cons Of Plastic

In this guide, we outline some of the more notable pros and cons of plastic in terms of how we use it as a material in society, and the potential impact it may have.

 

Summary – Pros & Cons Of Plastic

Plastic is a polarising material because of the stark benefits and drawbacks it presents, and the multiple ways it can impact humans, wild life, the environment, and the economy.

It certainly has it’s potential cons. There’s no denying that synthetic plastic is made from non renewable fossil fuel feedstock, that some plastic contains BPAs and other potentially harmful chemicals, fillers and additives, that plastic usually has a high waste rate amongst disposable packaging materials, or the extent of plastic pollution on beaches, in rivers and lakes, in the ocean and on land. That’s not even the start … microplastics seem to be everywhere (in our food and water, in the soil, in fresh water, and in the ocean, and more), plastic tends to have a lower recycling rate than other materials, and plastic can take thousands of years to fully degrade … just to name a few more drawbacks.

But, plastic also has it’s benefits. Being a synthetic material means we can design and manufacture it to be and do things we otherwise can’t with natural materials. Plastic can help minimise food waste, keep food hygienic and safe, keep medical instruments and items sterile and safe, help save fuel in vehicles by making vehicles lighter, is used in renewable energy equipment and systems like solar panel set ups, and is responsible for a lot of key plumbing piping and electrical conduits and cabling world wide (just to name a few key benefits). There’s also many other common uses for plastic, and we use it across many key sectors/industries in society. Something that surprises some people is that plastic also benefits the environment across multiple sustainability indicators by helping us save resources and reduce emissions at different stages across a material or product’s life cycle. Several life cycle assessment reports and case studies of items like bottles, bags, and packaging support this.

Going forward, instead of demonising plastic altogether, we might look at how we can extract maximum benefits out of plastic, whilst minimising the downsides as much as practically possible (and identifying, as well as maintaining awareness of plastics that may be the most problematic). A lot of this comes down to how we choose to use it.

Redesigning plastic products, developing new plastic chemistries (and new plastics), using more plastic alternatives and substitutes where beneficial, reducing plastic use and waste rates where possible, re-using, re-purposing and recycling plastic where possible, along with upgrading and improving plastic waste management systems, technology and facilities, are all potential places to start.

Solving plastic problems whilst maintaining the benefits of plastic is something that needs to be looked at on a case by case basis (by item, product, company, city, etc.), and will require all parties across the plastic life cycle to analyse and improve their behavior (suppliers, manufacturers, consumers, sellers, waste management collectors and processors, governments, and so on).

 

Pros Of Plastic

A summary of some of the potential pros:

Read more in this guide about the ways in which plastic benefits society, the environment and the economy.

 

Cons Of Plastic

A summary of some of the potential cons:

Read more on the cons and potential negatives of plastic on society as a whole in this guide.

 

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