Plastics replace many materials because of its low energy and low cost of manufacturing. Most common items we want to get rid of are one-time use plastics: plastic bags, bottles, and straws.
According to figures published in the journal Science, between 4.8 and 12.7 tons of plastic enter the ocean each year. Wildlife (marine and otherwise) is threatened by the massive influx of plastic into the ocean. One-time use plastics are the main culprit. People are fundamentally confused about one question at the grocery store, “Paper or plastic?”
While plastics do a great deal of damage, its alternatives aren’t necessarily better. In fact, paper takes roughly the same time to biodegrade. Paper products also have a higher cost of production than plastics.
Unfortunately paper is much more heavier than plastic. This means that they take up more room than plastic in landfills.
The problems with plastics are not limited to wastage: it starts from the beginning. Plastics are made from the oil and gas industry, which has been plagued with potential and environmental damage from drilling and oil spills throughout the extraction and transportation processes.
The manufacture is also controversial since factories are a large contributor to air pollution. However, other alternatives like paper and glass have higher energy costs and can sometimes result in large amounts of pollution. The problem with plastic lies beyond plastic itself.
Finding and economically suitable and environmentally safe alternative is a challenge. Of course, many have taken the initiative to start developing alternative materials. Scientists have been able to make plastics from biomass. This means that they are made from biological sources like corn, woodchips vegetable fats/oils and cellulose.
These types of plastics, while they are not from fossil fuels, are not without criticism. Their “greenness” has been challenged.
Bioplastics might have agricultural sourcing, which can make their manufacture inexpensive. However, not all bioplastics are biodegradable. They are just plant-based polymers that are plant-based and renewable. Their manufacture produces fewer greenhouse gases.
The best solution to the solution with plastics is just beyond our innovative grasp. Can we reach it before it is too late?