By Cate Latting of COMITATVS
Plastic has an interesting history—one that is much longer than most people suspect. The first synthetic polymer material was developed in 1869 as a substitute for ivory in billiard balls. It was not popularized, however, until the 1940s, when WWII required production to ramp up, and the demand for resources soared above the supply. New materials were developed for machine parts, packaging, and clothing. The popularity of synthetic materials did not stop after the war was over. Plastics have played a crucial role in maintaining the lifestyle we live today. They are present in almost every type of product we use—electronics, clothing, furniture, food packaging, and more. To demonstrate this, below is a day-in-the-life of a working adult. Every product or activity that would be different without plastic has been underlined.
The alarm clock jolts you awake in the morning, and you sleepily turn it off as you climb out of bed. You grab your glasses case from your nightstand and put the frames on. Open your dresser and take out your daily outfit—button up shirt and dress pants. Once you wake the kids, you search in the pantry for breakfast. You decide on cereal, and pull the box down to pour a bowl for yourself and for your kids. You fill up their cups from the milk carton, and turn on the coffee maker for a much needed cup of coffee. You pop a French Vanilla Roast capsule into the machine and let it start brewing.
After a few noisy minutes of breakfast and Mickey Mouse Playhouse playing on the TV in the background, it’s time to finish getting ready for work. You head to the bathroom and grab your toothbrush and toothpaste tube. You help your child onto a stool in front of the mirror and brush their hair while your spouse packs their ham and cheese sandwiches in Ziploc bags. Once they are dressed, with backpacks and shoes on, you’re ready to get them in the car to drive to school. You strap them into their carseats, and hit way too many traffic lights on the way.
After making it to the office, you pull open the front doors and make your way to the elevator. You pick up your mail (two memos and a catalog) and head to your desk, stopping at the water cooler on the way, where you log into your computer and settle in for the day.
After finishing work in the evening, it’s time to visit the gym. You scan your card at the entrance, change into your workout clothes, stash everything in a locker, grab your headphones, and head to the treadmill. You choose your favorite playlist on your phone, and dial into your run.
Finally, it’s time to go home, where you find your spouse starting to cook dinner. You jump in to help, grabbing a knife and a cutting board. You serve dinner, they take dish duty while you play with the kids. They’re big fans of Hot Wheels, so you race toy cars with them for a while before bathing them (with their favorite rubber duck, of course). They always struggle when you try to shampoo their hair. After finally getting them into pajamas and tucked into bed, you read them a book and turn off the lamp. Your night ends not long after– you get a cup of water for the night and finally get ready for bed.
Implications of replacing plastic
Were you surprised by any of the items above? Whether or not you realized how many of our everyday objects contain plastic, it is clear that it’s almost impossible to live a completely plastic-free lifestyle. Even though plastics get a bad reputation for the environmental strain they cause, we need to take into account other factors before making a judgement. Considering everything we discussed above, the convenience of plastics is too great to overlook. In certain circumstances, it may, in fact, be more environmentally friendly than alternatives. Glass, wood, and metal can all serve as a substitute for plastic in certain applications, and we must look at the supply chain holistically. For example, glass requires a large amount of heat energy to melt and form it into the needed shapes. Wood products require the harvesting of trees, which harms natural ecosystems. Additionally, all three of these materials are heavier than plastic, which affects the amount of energy needed for transportation. All things considered, plastics have a role in our lives that cannot always be replaced by other materials.
This is where recycling businesses come in. We specialize in providing the opportunity to practice sustainability without compromising quality or functionality. Recycled and bioplastic materials are growing in popularity to meet the demand for environmentally friendly materials that have the same physical properties as conventional, virgin plastics. For inquiries about our products, please contact [email protected].