How Plastic Gets a Bad Wrap (no pun intended)
From plastic water bottles to plastic bags, the long-standing notion is that plastic is a looming evil fighting against sustainability. Afterall, plastic is seen littering our oceans, our streets, and ultimately ends up in the trash. The aforementioned begs the question: Are we better off without plastic? It’s more complicated than yes or no because not all plastic is created equal.
Take a look at your plastic water bottle, chances are you will see a small chasing triangle with a number one. The Resin Identification Coding System (RIC), system used to classify plastics was first created in 1988 by the American Society for Testing and Material or ASTM. Ultimately, it is a set of symbols that are standard on plastic products to identify the resin it is made from. Overall, there are seven categories and how we produce, consume and dispose of the plastics are key to addressing its environmental. societal, and health concerns. Afterall, our planet is at stake if we refuse to identify the life cycle of all products we produce whether it be fossil fuels, timber, or plastic.
Plastic is a fundamental polymer in our current lives, but without reservation, plastic is only as sustainable as the raw sources, manufacturing process, and waste management by humans it employs. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “Plastics enter into the marine environment a number of ways: through ineffective or improper waste management, intentional or accidental dumping and littering on shorelines or at sea, or through stormwater runoff.” In essence, littering and poor waste management isn’t entirely a plastic problem, but rather a human one.
As a society, we must be aware of the way plastics are produced and the energy sources it draws from as key considerations. In the book, Sustainable Plastics: Environmental Assessment of Biobased, Biodegradable and Recyclable plastics, Chico State professor Dr. Joe Green, notes that “Plastics have the opportunity to define sustainable materials that are made from renewable or recycled material sources, made with lower energy, produce less pollution, and have a lower carbon footprint.” All in all, plastics are everywhere. From life-saving automobile parts, to life-saving medical devices, to how our foods are packaged. The way we handle plastic, or any product or resource in general, determines whether it’s a good or evil virtue in our lives.
Greene, Joseph P. Sustainable plastics: environmental assessments of biobased, biodegradable, and recycled plastics. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc, 2014. Print.
“ OR&R’s Marine Debris Program.” OR&R’s Marine Debris Program. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2017.