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Plastics Friend or Foe

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PLASTICS - FRIEND OR FOE In the modern age, the use of plastics has caused a heated discussion amongst many parties. Politicians, environmentalists, the media, corporations, the general public etc. have argued for and against the use of plastics. This assignment will look into the importance of plastics in our society and the damage that it causes. The first type of plastic manufactured for people to use was created in 1863 by an inventor called John Hyatt, but it wasn't until the 1930s did scientists gained a better understanding of developing plastics through crude oil, gas and other natural hydrocarbons. Technologies further improved during WW2 and the 1950s which drove the development of most plastics we see today. Nowadays, plastics play an incredibly important part of our lives. The majority of the things we own or use will consist of plastic. The two biggest reasons for its popularity are its usefulness and economic value. Plastic is a material that can provide consumers with their needs and wants. It has the unique capability to be manufactured to meet very specific functional needs for consumers. Listed are some key features that make plastic the material of choice for most producers. VERSATILITY One of the biggest assets of plastic is that it can be manufactured to use in almost any shape or form. It can be shaped using heat and once cooled, it will remain in shape. So manufacturers can design any shape they want of their product if they use plastic. An example will be plastic bottles or toys. ...read more.


Businesses are able to develop new products, create new markets and improve their existing markets. The food industry and industries associated with them like the supermarkets is one of the biggest winners of the usage of plastic. The ability to package products means that they can keep their produce fresh and can move across huge distances. So plastic has helped us by being a useful material and has had a positive affect in the economy. But plastic has also helped our society improve so much technologically in the 20th century. The electronics industry and its advances made is a perfect example. The most important part of the personal computer is obviously the electrical parts inside, but everything from the mouse to the keyboard, from the case to the monitor is normally made with plastic. Designing the look and feel of a PC and its accessories is easy with plastic, as well as being a good insulator of heat and electricity. The success of the PC has helped revolutionise the computer hardware and software industry and led to other industries being developed and technological advances like fibre optics, laser printing, the internet etc. Also, with plastic we are able to design refrigerators, televisions, telephones and other electrical equipment like they are now and it's one of the reasons why they work so well. Notably, plastics have environmental benefits as well. Plastic can help to conserve energy in your home. ...read more.


I feel this is a good step to take because consumers needs to learn how to use less, waste less and use less energy. But we need to adopt similar approaches to other areas as well as packaging. Some countries have adopted a system of taxing businesses using plastics which has reduced its usage. In Ireland for example, businesses has managed to reduce the use of plastic bags by 90% which can be said as a resounding success. It would help improve the landfill problem considering an estimated 56% of all plastics waste is used packaging. But this creates a big problem as we are just replacing plastics a substitute which is harder, less cost effective, and more energy consuming to produce. The study comparing plastic bag use to paper ones by Franklin Associates in (3) is an example. As for recycling, it is a mixed bag. The advantage is that we are re-using material so we won't need to extract more raw materials to make plastic. It also solves the landfill problem. Some reports also state that recycling reduces energy usage. But most reports tend to agree that the process of recycling expends a lot of energy. In the modern world where the only environmental issue greater than plastics is the threat of global warming, I feel that recycling is a solution that creates a bigger problem. Hopefully in the long term we can develop a material to replace plastic that would be energy efficient and is not as harmful to the environment. The biggest problem we face currently with plastic is obviously the waste, but we also need to break our dependence on fossil fuels. ...read more.

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