Economic, Environmental, Political
Uses of Plastic
Plastics are "one of the greatest innovations of the millennium" (on the cover of Newsweek) and have certainly proved their reputation to be true; it has been the most used material in the United States since 1976. There are a myriad ways that plastic is and will be used in the years to come. The fact that plastic is lightweight, does not rust or rot, helps lower transportation costs and conserves natural resources is the reason for which plastic has gained this much popularity. Plastics are everywhere and have innumerable uses! Plastics are durable, lightweight, and reusable. Also, the are used in packaging many goods. Did you know that researches are trying to make a television (made of plastic) that will roll up in your living room? In the following paragraphs, I will discuss some of the countless number of ways that plastics change your life.
The plastic industry, which barely existed about fifty years ago, now is helping the United States economy greatly! In 1996, shipments of plastics added up to an
amazing $274.5 billion, a fifty-five percent increase from 1991. Also in 1996, the plastic industry employed more than 1,337,700 jobs. Plastics are everywhere!
From your pillows and mattresses (cellular polyurethane or polyester) to cars and hi-tech computers, plastics are there. Since plastic is an insulator, plastic is used to
cover almost all wires and electric cords. Did you know that if the Titanic was made of plastic, it might still be cruising around the world? Plastics are exactly like the
Titanic, colossal in many people's current lifestyle, and will be in their future lifestyle.
Manufacturers are dependent on plastic to save them money on packaging, as they use one-third of the total United States production. They choose strong and lightweight plastics to deliver the same amount of product with less packaging than other materials. The building and construction industry uses vinyl siding for homes because of its appearance, durability, ease of installation and energy efficiency and they are the second largest consumers of plastics. The automotive industry chooses plastic for their durability, corrosion resistance, ease of coloring and finishing, resiliency, energy efficiency and lightweight. The auto, appliance, and construction industries also uses plastic, for plastic reduces energy consumption. Plastics certainly are a great gift for these industries, and certainly cuts a chunk out of their production costs!
Plastic is not only energy efficient, but saves the United States dollars by the second. In a recently conducted test, researchers found out that by using plastic over glass and metal, the United States economy could save over $336 trillion. Although we have listed some of the major consumers of plastics, there are quite a few more out there. In any household, plastics are destined to be there. Plastics certainly have made a home in our world's economy as the "useful innovation of the millennium."
Health and Environmental Hazards
Although plastic has many positive influences in everyday lives, there have been instances when plastics have posed some health and environmental hazards. Most plastics do not pose any health or environmental hazards, but some monomers that are used in manufacturing plastics, have been proved to cause cancer. Also, benzene, a raw material used in the production of nylon, is a carcinogen (something that causes cancer). Even though recycling continues to reuse plastics, most plastics do not rot and can not be reused. Unfortunately, this will soon become an environmental problem: Where will the plastic be disposed? But, many researchers hope to find a solution to this dilemma in the future. When every plastic can be broken down, plastic will truly become the most useful product!
Unwanted plastic is not only a pile of rubbish, it also smells trouble.
Some countries have too much of plastic rubbish for them to dispose off. And due to the high cost of the disposal of the plastic rubbish, many resort to indiscriminate dumping of plastics. In many cases, some developed countries actually pay the developing countries to dump the rubbish in their country so that the developed countries' "backyard" would be clean of the unwanted plastic products. Sometimes, rumors spread about dumping of toxic waste and this often cause tensions between the related the nations.
Besides dumping of plastics, some countries actually incinerate the plastic waste and all the poisonous gases produced actually spreads across nations; causing serious effects such as acid rain, health and environmental effects across the borders.