What is plastic and what is wrong with it?

 What is plastic?

Plastic is something plastic 🙂 meaning flexible, something that can be moulded into different shapes. The name of the material represents its generic quality. 

 

Plastic materials can be made out of natural rubber, salt, starch, cellulose, etc. However, a vast majority of all plastic things around you are synthetic (meaning man made polymers) and mostly derived from petrochemicals. Making plastic accounts for 10 % of all the fossil fuels burned on Earth every year. 

 

There are more than 30 types of plastic used in almost all spheres of our lives. Plastic can be classified by chemical structure, process of its creation, by various physical properties, and other qualities. 

 

 

 

We want to highlight one important classification(according to Wikipedia): thermoplastics and thermosetting polymers. 

– Thermoplastics are the plastics that, when heated, do not undergo chemical change in their composition and so can be molded again and again. Among them, well known PET (1), PP (5) and PVC (3).

– Thermosets, or thermosetting polymers, can melt and take shape only once: after they have solidified, they stay solid. Examples of such plastics: polyurethane used to make small stationary and kitchen utensils, construction materials, etc.; silicone used for food storage, cosmetic accessories, etc.; polyester used in clothing.

Most common thermoplastics are the ones you usually see when you go shopping. All these plastic bottles with water, shampoo and cleaning products, white trays for wet products, etc. These plastics are good for recycling and transformation in new products.

Since first plastic was synthesized in 1902 and a boost in polymer creation in 1920 plastics became an indispensable part of our lives. Car industry, home appliances, medicine, you name it – wouldn’t be developing as quickly and efficiently, if not for plastic. It’s durable, light, most types of plastic don’t conduct electricity, offering a wide range of forms, shapes and uses.

What is wrong with plastic?

  • Plastic is destined to become waste that will not decompose in the nature for the next 300-700 years

  • In 2019 more than 300 million tons of plastic were produced. 50% of all this plastic is single-used! It is used for an average 15 minutes but is destined to stay with us almost forever.

  • Plastic production is directly connected to oil extraction – one of the main reasons of the climate crisis.

  • Ever growing plastic production. Of all the plastic that ever existed more than half
    was produced in the last 15 years and 91% has never been recycled.

  • 32% of plastic packaging ends up littering the environment, 40% is sitting in the landfills somewhere, 14% is incinerated, 14% is recycled, only 2% is EFFECTIVELY recycled

  • More than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped in the oceans every year and this number is growing. 

  • 83% of all marine litter found in Black Sea is plastic, threatening the sea ecosystem and endangering endemic creatures.

  • According to Greenpeace more than 180 toxic substances are used in plastic of different types, that can have negative effects on human health.

  • There is growing concern of the amount of microplastics penetrating everywhere. It is found in the oceans, in tap water, in our food and even plants. We eat, drink and breath microplastics every day. According to recent research published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology people eat at least 50 000 plastic particles a year. The harm of microplastic is not yet researched well and long enough, but being non-organic and foreign to our ecosystem it can’t be good for you.

While we acknowledge the need of plastic in several areas of our life, most of all, in medicine and machinery, we encourage everyone to reduce plastic use in your life, refusing single-use plastic and swapping to reusable options.

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