by something more newsworthy. But then it is back, in a grand effort to convince the world that plastics are one of the greatest evils that humanity has unleashed on the Earth. Yet despite so many efforts to eliminate plastic, it is not going anywhere any time soon.
Plastic is the most ubiquitous manufacturing material in the world. Until we find a material capable of rivaling plastic in performance, cost, and other important factors, that much will not change. So rather than expending so much time and energy trying to ban it, wouldn’t it be better to figure out new and more effective ways to recycle what can be recycled and properly dispose of the rest?
Here are five reasons plastic is not going away any time soon:
1. We’ve Gotten Used to It
At the very top of the list is the reality that we have all gotten used to plastic. So much so that we might not be willing to give up those things that plastic makes possible. For example, are we willing to give up our cell phones, computers, and HD TVs? Today’s consumer electronics would not be possible without plastic. The same goes for anything with a circuit board.
Most consumers have no idea how pervasively plastic impacts their lives. If all that plastic went bye-bye, most of us wouldn’t know what to do it ourselves. For that reason alone, plastic is not going to be banned.
2. It is Cheap to Make
One of plastic’s big advantages over other manufacturing materials is cost. Simply put, plastic is cheap to make. Most plastics start as petroleum products. Petroleum is processed using heat and chemicals to produce the long-chain polymers that become plastics. You can do it for a lot less than you can make stainless steel.
Plastic is also cheaper to work with. You can make a plastic product with an injection molding machine for pennies. Manufacture that same product out of wood or metal, and you have a labor-intensive process that costs more money.
3. It is Easy to Work with
Along those same lines, plastic is easy to work with because you can form it into just about any shape and size. You simply melt it down and inject it into a mold. Manufacturers can accomplish things with plastic that they cannot accomplish with any other construction material. Look at your cell phone. The comfortable, molded case that fits in your hand so well wouldn’t be as comfortable or molded were it made of metal or wood.
4. It Can Be Recycled
Even though only 9% of the worlds plastic ever gets recycled, it can be recycled effectively if we do it the right way. Just ask Tennessee-based Seraphim Plastics. Their business model is proof that recycling is both possible and profitable. What makes their business different is that they focus on industrial scrap plastic rather than curbside recyclables. But industrial scrap plastic is the stuff manufacturers need to make their products. So it’s all good.
5. It is Lightweight
Finally, plastic is lightweight and yet still strong. Certain kinds of plastics, like carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP), are even stronger than metal. A combination of low weight and high tensile strength that makes it possible to build airliners with a high volume of plastic parts.
We would like to think that we can simply ban plastic and life would go on as normal. It wouldn’t, which is why plastic isn’t going anywhere any time soon.