In negligible more than a century, plastic has gone from being called as a scientific wonder to being reviled as an environmental scourge.
It was in 1907 that the beginning modern plastic, bakelite, was invented.
It pointed the way to a whole family of produces based on synthetic polymers – that is, compounds of large molecules assigned up of simple repeated units.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, convalescences in manufacturing processes brought the cost of making plastics down dramatically, flag the way for cheap mass production.
“Plastic is an amazing substance, an amazing contrivance,” Ian Jamie, managing director of Coventry-based manufacturer Staeger Clear Packaging, reported the BBC. “It’s lightweight, it’s tough, transparent, waterproof.”
Here to stay
It’s not too much of a reach to say that plastic made the modern world possible.
Many factors that we take for granted today depend on it. Milk, for instance, no longer has to be hurled in glass bottles, making it safer and less cumbersome to transport.
Bogus has also allowed supermarkets to offer a wider range of fresher breed in a variety of portion sizes.
Grapes sold in sealed trays somewhat than loose bunches have reduced waste in stores by profuse than 20%, retail analysts say.
Consumers are advised by the Food Standards Activity to put raw chicken in a plastic bag to avoid the risk of food poisoning.
Modern drug has also greatly benefited from the disposable plastic syringe, conceived in 1955.
According to the British Plastics Federation, studies have also arrived that if plastic packaging had to be replaced by other materials, it would work up to a rise in consumption of packaging, in terms of mass, energy and greenhouse gas emissions.
In truth, it says, alternative materials to plastic would result in 2.7 one of these days more greenhouse gas emissions over their lifetime.
For all these estimates, few environmental campaigners seriously talk of turning back the clock to a pre-plastic age. The call into is rather to mitigate the worst effects of its proliferation and find ways of bring down the pollution it causes.
For Dame Ellen MacArthur, whose self-named basis runs an initiative called the New Plastics Economy, the whole product cycle emergencies to be redesigned.
She told the BBC that 78 million tonnes of plastic casing were produced in the world every year, of which 40% keep oned straight to landfill.
“Thirty-two per cent of it leaks into the environment, 14% is incinerated and alone 14% is collected for recycling,” she said.
“Of that, only 2% off c removes recycled into the same quality of plastic. That is wonderful, but 2% of 78 million tonnes is pocket.”
Dame Ellen said that 50% of plastic could be redesigned to be effectively recycled. All too much, products were made that were not recyclable, because recyclable and non-recyclable bogus parts were combined and could not easily be separated.
Mr Jamie of Staeger Direct Packaging said he was working with researchers to find new forms of inexperienced that were less harmful to the environment. However, previous exploits had failed for technical reasons and new products would be more expensive.
At bottom, the solution is in consumers’ hands, say the experts. As they point out, people who object to open can often choose to buy products packaged in glass bottles or tin cans preferably.
And other forms of plastic are being developed. However, they are like as not to cost more and might end up giving us less attractive packaging.
The challenge is: are consumers prepared to accept compromises to reduce plastic pollution?