How the Environment is Changing Our Relationship with Plastic
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The mass manufacture fo plastic was one of the most important innovations of the twentieth century, making available to the world a material that was first displayed at the Great International Exhibition of 1862 in London by its inventor, Alexander Parkes.
Indeed, since their creation, plastics have become ubiquitous in the modern world as they are used in multiple applications.
There is a growing recognition, as well as regulatory pressure for us to re-think our relationship with the material on account of the significant ecological damage its disposal – and particularly the disposal of single-use plastics causes globally. And manufacturers are increasingly adapting to new environmental concerns by adapting.
Sustainable Polythene Packaging
Polythene is a material that is widely used for packaging by businesses. However, its use in disposable packaging contributes significantly to environmental pollution. This is where some companies, like Polythene UK, are looking to make a difference. Their range of eco-friendly polythene products seeks to minimise the impact of plastic packaging, whether it's through biodegradable, recycled or low-consumption products.
It is clear that we need to adapt our approach to plastic packaging. While it might not be suitable to eschew plastics altogether in many cases, taking steps to use the material more sustainably is essential. To learn more about sustainable polythene products, check out this website.
Bioplastics in Food Packaging
Another interesting innovation involves the use of bioplastics. These materials can biodegrade completely within two years and can be thrown away directly into compost bins with other food waste.
If the material becomes widely available, it could replace single-use packaging for food items and disposable plastic bags. Innovations like these tend to use the natural polymer cellulose. However, there are still some hurdles scientists must overcome before it is widely adopted. For example, making the material transparent and heat resistant is challenging. Nevertheless, this seems like an encouraging innovation.
Plastic in Road Construction
In a bid to prevent plastics from ending up in the oceans or landfills, some have suggested using waste material as a means for building roads. Some companies are now advocating using waste plastics for this application due to their lightweight and durable nature.
There are many upsides to plastic compared to conventional road building materials. For example, it requires just a fraction of the time traditional methods would, and once built, these roads require next to no maintenance. In fact, plastic roads are reported to last up to three times as long as standard roads and are entirely made from recycled materials.
By comparison, asphalt is a relatively brittle material with a significant carbon footprint. This conventional material used in roads contributes some 1.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year. Therefore, recycled plastics could be a much more sustainable solution.
Overall, our relationship with plastic must change in the future. The ways we currently use the material are unsustainable and plastic pollution is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges facing humanity at present. Therefore, innovations such as these will play an important role in altering how we use plastics and our approach to waste management in the future.