The Importance of Plastics

When discussing the dangers of marine plastic pollution it is hard to remember how important of a role plastics play in our everyday lives. Throughout my college career I have focused a majority of my research on marine plastic pollution. However, it wasn’t until this past semester that I really took the time to look at how often we depend on plastic products. Plastic is all around us. We depend on it for our health and well-being, mode of transportation, ability to communicate, and entertainment purposes. Syringes, stethoscopes, PVC pipes, car parts, cell phones, TVs, and sports equipment are amongst the vast amount of plastic products that we come in contact with regularly. Not only do plastics provide us with vital objects, they also benefit our nation economically. The plastics industry provides around 900,000 American with jobs and contributes around $373 billion annually to our economy.

Large-scale production of plastic materials began after the end of World War II, in the 1940’s. Back then our nation was short on metal materials, bringing plastics into high demand at an affordable price. This affordable price was hard to beat, allowing production companies to cut down on more traditional materials such as wood, metal, paper, glass, etc. What has always amazed me about plastic is how durable yet flexible of a product it creates. This is where plastic becomes deadly; this durability ensures that it won’t be broken down in our environment. If plastic were biodegradable, I feel we would have a more positive outlook on its widespread use in our nation. In my lifetime, I hope to see the evolution of plastic instead of seeing the extinction of plastic.

However, until plastic is biodegradable and less toxic to our environment I will be seeking alternatives. There are many different types of alternatives to plastics in our world. These alternatives may be more costly and time consuming to find, but it is definitely worth it!


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