Before we dive into why this popular material may have some plus sides, it is important to know what plastic is. Plastic is made up of long molecules (polymers and monomers) built around carbon chains. It can be gas, plant, mineral, or oil based. Plastic is usually synthetic; man-made through complex chemical processes, rather than plants or animals.
Because of its malleability, durability, and ease to produce, plastic slowly grew in popularity, and completely blew up in the 1960s when Karl Ziegler created polyethylene; the plastic we know today. It is since then, that the plastic crisis has merged out of over consumption.
Plastic Saves Lives
Think of the seat-belts that keep you safe, the car seats that protect your children, and the pacemakers saving your grandfather’s life daily; these items are made from plastic.
Plastic makes the impossible happen.
Over 3,000 police officer’s lives have been saved by their plastic based protective vests, and medical professionals use plastic tools daily that keep blood pumping, fluids flowing, and their patients alive. Without plastic, none of this would be possible.
Wrapping our food in plastic is another major life saving technique.
Plastic packaging reduces the amount of bacteria growth on food, meaning it is healthier for us, and there is less chance of harmful bacteria that will make us sick. Plastic protects us from food borne diseases, and serious discomfort.
Image via The Atlantic
Plastic feeds billions
Plastic wrapped cucumbers are hard to fathom when you’re an eco-warrior marching through Plastic Free July, but with 7.4 billion people to feed in the world; plastic is a necessity. For example the plastic wrapping on a cucumber can extend its shelf life by 14 days.
As a society, we can’t afford to waste food when there are so many mouths to feed. We see the repercussions of plastic-free produce in third world countries where packaging is not available and many starve.
“Beyond serving our own taste buds, plastic is a huge part of the battle against malnutrition in the developing world.” – Sarah Wild, Quartz
Wrapping our food in plastic is practical and often more economical than other materials. Because of the malleable and lightweight properties of plastic, less can be used, and less fuel is needed to transport the food, resulting in lower carbon emissions.