Plastics have recently become the “bad guy” of materials, mainly because they don’t degrade easily or quickly. People throw away plastic and clog landfills or create unsightly trash. This has caused major problems for many wildlife. Marine animals, in particular, often get tangled up in plastic waste. Even worse, tiny plastic particles (” microplastics “) can damage the digestive systems of the animals that eat them.
As a species, humans aren’t very good at dealing with the amount of plastic waste we produce. However, plastic is a very useful material! You may be surprised to learn that plastic isn’t all bad. Let’s look at the useful aspects of plastic.
The whole reason we use plastics so much is that they are inert. They don’t degrade well, they don’t react with many chemicals in their environment, and they are tough. This means that plastic components can be used over and over again, rather than made new each time. This reduces the overall amount of material that is needed. For example, pipes that carry water will not rust if made of plastic rather than metal, and so will have a longer lifetime.