Instructor: Jacqueline Stark
Krupnick Essay Contest Winner, 2007
The Argument Against Plastic
Products made from plastic are a part of every day life. We pour milk for our morning cereal out of a plastic bottle, drive to work in our cars with plastic components, and write reports on our computers using plastic keyboards. Plastics of any kind make our lives easier, and seemingly better. However, our love affair with plastic is not sustainable. As an ecologist who has travelled through 1st and 3rd world countries, I have seen the damage that plastic and its by-products are doing to our earth, and the imbalance our dependence on this product ics creating in the environment. We are all decent, educated people, and have the technology to research and produce ecologically sound alternatives to plastic. This is why we must urge industries all over the world to find alternatives to plastic when manufacturing their products, in order to reduce the usage of toxic petrochemicals, decrease the size of our landfills, and lessen the threat to our wildlife.
It may be a shock to some, but plastic in all of its forms is made from the same base ingredient – oil. Oils are rcefined, mixed with poisonous chemicals and cooked at high temperatures in order to produce items such as plastic bags, computer casings, automobile dashboards and cooking utensils. Such a process produces toxic by-products and greenhouse gasses, which in turn reduces our air quality and can degrade soil and waterways. In a study conducted by United States Environmental Board, the production of plastic in the United States releases 500 million tons of greenhouse gasses annually. When compared to the production of environmentally sustainable alternatives, such as metals, wood, concrete, paper and glass, emissions were much lower, releasing only five million tons of greenhouse gasses during the same time period. In similar studies conducted worldwide, the results were the same – Industries that produce ecologically sound alternatives produced emissions far less than those who manufacture plastic products. It is clear to see that these plastic alternatives are having less of an impact on our world, and we should continue to encourage manufacturers to seek economically feasible way to convert to their use.
The size of our landfills are always a concern, and knowing that many of the products that we dump in them are not biodegradable or recyclable is even more cause for alarm. Plastic is one of these products, which can take more than 1000 years to degrade and can only be recycled bcy a lengthy, expensive process. Plastic products, in particular, plastic shopping bags, account for more than half of the waste in landfills the world over. This is something that can be avoided, according to research undertaken by the University of California Santa Barbara in 2006. Their research suggested that a switch to degradable plastic alternatives during the next ten years within the United States will mean that the number of landfills needed will drop by 60 percent. This can be attributed to the fact that most plastic alternatives either degrade at a much faster rate (such as paper), or can be easily recycled (such as glass and metal). After seeing these figures, it makes sense to use these alternate products over plastics, as it can only help improve the quality of the environment.
When we throw our plastic products away, we often don’t think of where they can end up. Often, our garbage ends up in waterways, in parks, and on beaches where animals can easily come into contact with them. We have all seen in pictures and on television the pitiful sight of an animal with soda can rings around its neck, and I, myself, have seen creatures dead after choking on a plastic bag. This is something that can be prevented, if the move is made to ban plastic being manufactured in the first place. If plastics are not manufactured, there is no way that they can find their way into our environment. Some manufacturers are slowly making the change so that plastics have a lower effect on nature. In a recent meeting, The Industry Union of America and its 500 members made a pledge to use 40 percent more degradable materials, and contribute to sustainability movements in their local areas. This is an encouraging sign to us all and means that we are making headway in this issue.
I know that the opposition thinks that making the switch from plastic to degradable materials is going to be too difficult, and will take up valuable company funds in researching such alternatives. However, I urge the opposition to look to the future, and reflect upon the mounting evidence that the production of plastics is a threat to our earth and thus, to us. It is the responsibility of companies to deliver the best products possible to consumers, and part of this responsibility is ensuring that the products do minimal harm to the environment, and ultimately, humans. A temporary adjustment is well worth the long-term environmental security.
Though plastic products seem to make our lives easier, they will ultimately make our lives more difficult through the damage they cause to our air quality, soil and water, the clogging of our landfills, and the threat to our wildlife. If we continue to rely on such dangerous products, we will only add to the damage that has already been done. We must take action and urge manufacturing industries to find alternatives to plastic in their products, whether it be by petitioning companies to make the change, or choosing not to purchase their products in favour of those coccmpanies who use environmentally sound substitutes. By assisting in this change, we are all contributing to a better world.
(Please not that there is no Works Cited page for this essay, as the sources within the essay was generated by the student, as requested as the instructor of the class.)
Plastic is one of the most used material these days. It is being used in almost every industry. But along with its advantages, there are lot of disadvantages of plastic too. Let’s take a look at the positive and negative effects of plastic.
Increasing usage of plastic
In our daily life, plastic made a considerable impact and we are heavily dependent on plastic. Starting from daily usage utensils to decorative items all are coming in plastic. The usage of plastic is increasing day by day and researchers are also trying to develop more durable, less weight, strong plastic to meet today’s needs. The usage of plastic is increasing exponentially from the last century. Records showed that the amount of plastic made in the first 10 years of 21stcentury is equal to the amount of plastic made in the whole 20thcentury. Generally, Plastic is of two types i.e. high quality plastic and low quality plastic. High quality plastic is very strong and is generally used for making products like cabins, mobile and laptop cases etc. Low quality plastic is generally weak and is used for making utensils, vessels etc.
Positive impact of plastic
There are several advantages with plastic which can’t be compared with others. Plastic is highly durable material and it lasts longer. Another positive thing about plastic is its ease in converting to required shape. The weight of the plastic is very less and it is almost as strong as metals. You can convert plastic into the shape you required and they look equally beautiful like glass or other expensive materials. Unlike glass which has to be handled carefully, you can roughly use plastic materials. One more advantage of plastic is it is recyclable. The wear and tear of plastic parts is very less when compared to other materials available.
Negative impact of plastic
The modern lifestyle is focused on people who are always on the move. For this reason, food is available in cans, plastic containers, and other materials. The more people make use of these items, the higher the rate at which they accumulate the amount of garbage on the planet. Among the most stubborn forms of garbage are plastics. They do not rot as naturally as their other counterparts. Also, when burned up, they emit fumes which contain very harmful chemicals. Here, we focus on the ways plastics affect the planet we call home.
There are some negative things about plastic which has to be considered equally like advantages. Plastic items can’t tolerate high temperatures and releases harmful gases (at high temp.) which cause pollution. Plastic is not easily disposable and it will take thousands of years to completely dispose in soil. This result in other harmful things like blockage of water (resulting floods), death of animals, birds because of eating plastic etc. which are serious concerns of several environmental activists. Even the process of making plastic by industries releases heavy amounts of carbon dioxide.
There are so many advantages with plastic and it has to be used carefully and within the limitations to protect environment. Plastic is recyclable and hence instead of disposing it, everybody must take initiative to recycle so that the effect of plastic on environment will be less. Recycling of plastic not only helps environment but also gives you money. Several governments are making regulatory laws to regulate the use of plastic and several NGO’s from all over the world are trying to create awareness among people about plastic. Presently plastic accounts 10% of waste which is a serious concern of several environmental activists. It has to be reduced substantially for better future.
Sources of Plastic Pollutants
Each day, we release plastics to the environment in ways we do not expect.
Trash is everyday materials such as plastic bags,water bottles, milk packets, and electronic parts and so on. High impact plastics find their way to the environment in many different ways including when you ‘innocently’ through a water bottle to the dustbin in town. You may even have an item such as cloth but not recognize the fact that the buttons are made of plastic.
It may not be a surprise to recognize the fact that plastics are among the most used material on the planet. The fact that they are among the cheapest and most commonly available materials makes them among the most dangerous pollutants on the planet. The harmful effects of plastics may include the introduction of inorganic materials in the soil and harmful gasses in the atmosphere when it is burned, but plastics do more than that as they have compounds that may cause diseases to people and animals. When they find their way into waterways and other areas, they may harm the users of the water including marine life.
Fishing activities require a lot of equipment such as nets which are mostly made of plastics. When the nets break down, they are often left to stay in the water. Also, the fact that the nets stay in water means that they emit toxins at will. High impact plastics are the worst of them all since their level of harm to the environment is higher than the other types of plastics. The harmful effects of plastics on the environment will depend on the materials that went into their making.
Impact plastics are those that continue to release toxins into the environment even after their use. High impact plastics are those whose level of chemicals released is higher than the others. When plastics are used and either disposed of or recycled, they will still release their toxic substances to the environment. People make the mistake of thinking that recycling is the solution to the issue of pollution from plastics when it is not. Even the recycling process for plastics is very costly and will lead to the release of some of the gasses that are released when the plastics are burned.
Pollution from Plastics affects the Natural Food Chain
Among the harmful effects of plastics is that they affect the natural order of feeding. They affect from the large animals to the microscopic plankton which is the main type of food eaten by fish and other aquatic lifeforms. Plastics will affect every part of the food chain to the extent that even the large animals in the food chain will be affected. They may be directly affected by feeding on plastic toxins or indirectly by lacking the food to eat after the plastics have killed the animals down in the chain.
Plastics Pollute sources of Water
A large part of the water we drink is transported through the ground through pipes and other methods. The plastics in the dumpsite will mix, resulting in high impact plastic and seep into the ground and into most sources of ground water. The harmful effects of plastics can be passed through the ground to the body through various ways like the water explained here. For most people, ground water is assumed to be safe for drinking when the reality is far from that. Unless it has been treated and approved for human consumption, do not attempt to drink it as you will be taking in lots of poisons.
Air and Land Pollution
Plastics have chemicals that can be transported through water and air to various locations that they can harm the people who come into contact with them. For all one may know, the plastic items in the home may not harm them during their use, but once they are burned or disposed of, they will have such a big impact on the environment that they have been declared among the most impactful of pollutants on the planet. One needs to focus on their impact on land, water, and the air to avoid their polluting effect.
Finally, plastic is like a double edged sword and we must use it carefully to avoid future complications and environmental problems. Even methods suggested by plastic companies like burying deep in the earth will also have its own implications on environment. So plastic companies and plastic users have to use it cautiously. Plastic must be used according to our needs but not for our luxuries.
With the high number of plastics on the planet and in everyday use, there are measures put in place to stop their pollution on the environment. First of all is the issue of recycling. Recycling will ensure that the plastics do not find their way to the ground or sources of water to impact it in negative ways. It is the responsibility of everyone to take the plastic to the right locations for recycling or other use that will not affect the people around the area. This is the best way of dealing with the plastics.
What are your thoughts on the heavy use of plastic products in our everyday life? What could be done to save the environment from plastic pollution? What could be the alternative materials for plastic? Post your thoughts and ideas in the comments box below.Latest Trends:
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