How times have changed. It is now obligatory to pass derogatory remarks in connection with Plastic. Some parts of Society have taken to labeling plastic as some sort of evil let loose on the world by the devil - the bringer of Armageddon.
Plastic as material was patented by Alexander Parkes, in 1856. We use the word plastic to describe a loose collection of synthetically produced materials. Plastic a 160 years on has a great heritage as a supplier of everything good that is the bedrock of our modern society. You name it transport, the interconnected world, food its production and distribution. Even getting to the moon and back it took the supply of plastic to get the job done.
In our own little world of the Fenestration Industry we consume part of the 30% of the world’s plastic production attributed to the building sector. The obvious one to most of us is the vinyl window (pvc). It is also easy to forget glass doesn’t get glazed without modern plastic, or an aluminum window is only thermally insulated because of plastics.
Modern plastics can be made to last or alternatively biodegradable. Those that have the badge of being long-lasting for the most part also enjoy the virtue of being recyclable.
So why do some aided by the main-stream-media, get so hyped up and try to discredit plastic. What comes to mind here is their never ending need to be on message with the eco-terrorist; it must be bad because ‘they’ (the terrorist) said so – let’s campaign to ban it. Never once does anyone question the validity or context of the claims, investigative journalism at its best.
The illustration often used is the plastic in our Oceans and how it harms nature. The point not made, as it doesn’t help the cause, is how this plastic got in the oceans in the first place. You may recall, as it was all over the news media, images showing UK supermarket carrier bags turning up on pristine beaches in the Pacific. Everyone would admit that was a pretty shocking and disgusting sight. If it wasn’t staged how did they get there.
There are clearly a very small number of individuals that have a total disdain for the world in which they live, they discard their litter here, there and everywhere. These are the same people that believe they are owed by society without ever seeing the need to contribute. Even that doesn’t answer how plastic from the UK is found in large quantities on the shores in the Pacific. Not even the world’s ocean currents could have aided its passage - North Sea to the West Pacific doesn’t really work.
What is clear in any analysis, it is not plastic that is the problem, it is people. Plastic produced for one purpose only appears elsewhere only as the result of human intervention.
As a society in the UK we produce an enormous amount of waste. It is now agreed that landfill is not the most practical way forward. Especially as so much of what is discarded can have other uses. So waste is sent for processing and recycling, all good so far. Then as if by magic, organizations in far flung countries of the world pop up with the message we can process that waste cheaper for you. So to this end we pack the containers, load the ships, and send the waste on its way - problem solved. As the governments at the port of destination become aware what is heading their way they understandably call a halt to the endeavor. Ships with containers are at sea, contracts signed, money paid. The Oops moment. As admitted on the subsequent insurance claim, followed up with a discrete announcement in the media, the containers fell overboard in rough seas. The plastic leached into the sea as the locked doors on the container came open as they fell into the sea. In this gray commercial world no one is out of pocket. The eco-terrorist is able to blame the product, vindicating their purpose in life. The main-stream-media has its horror story to campaign on. So for one sector there is a small world of apocalyptic happy people.
Is that the reality? At no stage could Plastic be seen as the villain. Plastic didn’t go feral. Plastic didn’t litter the countryside; it didn’t pollute our rivers and seas, on its own. It is the people that live among us that do that.
The majority of Society is left to pick up the burden of increased costs, extra taxes and the inconvenience as the result of needlessly banning of plastic. The concept of thinking things through has left the building.
Plastic is recycled, so is glass, aluminum more so. Paper goes back into the system; food stuff provides nutrition for plant life, the list is endless, the circle is endless, as are the possibilities. The only polluter here is the human, are they to be banned?