medical supplies are kept sanitized

Why Do We Need Plastic?

Plastic materials have permeated every aspect of modern-day life. Just go through your house. Window blinds, appliances, computer cases, CD’s/DVD’s, food containers, trash bags, water and sewer supply lines, furniture parts, vinyl floor coverings, printers, tablets, smart speakers, TVs, outlet covers, disposable dishes… The list goes on and on.

Plastic is used almost everywhere is because of its strength, low density, molding capabilities, user-friendly designs, longevity, lightweight, and cost-effectiveness. It has become more ubiquitous thanks to all of these great qualities, but plastic’s long-lasting property is increasingly being recognized as problematic. It doesn’t really breakdown, leading to more plastic trash than the systems we’ve designed can handle (recycling, we’re looking at you).

The excess plastic waste that can’t be managed ends up everywhere – in rivers and streams, the oceans, or pawned off on less-developed countries – causing harm to many species that inhabit our planet.

This begs the question, why do we need plastic?

From protecting ready-made food from airborne contaminants to providing the most sterile means possible for administering lifesaving vaccines, there are actually many reasons why we need plastic.

Benefits of Plastic

empty plastic bottles sit empty on a conveyor belt in a factory awaiting to be filled

Our world is so dependent on plastics it’s hard to conceive a world without plastics. To put this into perspective, have a look at the list below for eight important reasons why we really do need plastic in our lives.

1. Plastic Protects Food from Pathogens

sushi to go sits on a table with a plastic lid

Before it gets in our mouths, whether raw or cooked, our food needs a barrier to protect it from all of the airborne germs and potential hazards it can encounter in transport, at the market, or in a restaurant’s kitchen.

In our cost-conscious but inflation-prone society, the low cost and ease of production make plastic the ideal material for the wrapping, packaging, preservation, and transportation of food.

When you visit the grocery store, your vegetables, meat, or fruits are all wrapped in plastic. Containers used for packaging milk, yogurt, and juice are made from different forms of plastics because it’s sanitary, flexible, lightweight, and durable.

It helps to control gas respiration to keep food fresh and reduces damage to products. Plastic also keeps food in the grocery store safe from the latest YouTube trends.

Apart from plastic linings managing weeds on the farm, plastic also helps to minimize temperature fluctuation and enhance crop growth and harvest in greenhouses. Farm handlers also wear plastic gloves to keep contaminants that would harm us at bay.

2. Plastic Economizes Transportation

a man is sanding a plastic bumper in an auto repair shop

Plastics are the best option when it comes to transportation because they are lightweight, durable, resistant to corrosion, and easy to color. Lighter vehicles translate to better fuel efficiency and less expense.

Interior wall panels, vehicle glazing, headlight covers, headliners, window shrouds, wear pads, spare tire covers, and the buttons to turn on your car’s AC and radio are almost always made of plastic.

Other modes of transportation have also taken advantage of plastic. Airplanes, boats, trains, motorcycles, bicycles, skateboards, and roller-skates all take advantage of plastic in their creation.

3. Plastics are Responsible for Sanitary Healthcare

a mother and her baby sit upon a single use syringe next to pills

The application of plastics is phenomenal in the health sector. Most medical equipment and all disposable medical devices are made of plastics. Plastic syringes, blood bags, and new heart valves are good examples of the beneficial use of plastics.

Because plastic is durable, it’s the preferred choice in the manufacturing of medical safety devices such as blister packs, tamper-proof caps on medical packaging, and several medical waste disposal bags.

Some other medical tools and devices made of plastics are inflatable splits, surgical gloves, IV tubes, and insulin pens. These products help in preventing the spread of harmful diseases because they are only used once and therefore aren’t required to be sterilized.

Prosthetics are a specific sector of the healthcare field that has benefited from plastic. Plastic prosthetics enable doctors to provide healthcare solutions with better functionality and features that can be more easily customized to each unique patient.

4. Plastic Lends Durability to Building & Construction

used hard hats sit in rows

Most construction companies use plastic materials. In Europe, building and construction consumes more than 10 million tons of plastics each year, making it the second-largest user of plastics after the packaging industry.

Where long-lasting durability is needed in home construction, plastic components are used for their light weight and durability. This can include outdoor decking, insulation around electrical cords, outlet covers, valves, pipes and pipe fittings.

Plastic pipes are suitable for construction since they are highly resistant to water and chemicals and can withstand extreme conditions.

5. Plastic Makes Your Phone Portable (and Affordable)

a laptop surrounded by other plastic devices like a portable gaming console and computer mice

The world would be a dull place without entertainment and communication. A large percentage of the components in your computer, cell phone, TV, smart speaker, and favorite gaming console are made with plastic parts.

How would we effectively communicate and share information at an affordable price if it was not for the availability of plastics? The cost of communication would be definitely high, and products would be heavier and larger.

6.   Plastics are an Integral Part of Our Economy

an economy and financing concept is drawn in the air

We use it to extend food shelf life, protect our health and promote better health. We have building and construction and industrial plastic to use. It’s a key to modern transportation, infrastructure, and makes the transport of items affordable and easier to complete.

For all the reasons we need and use plastic, there is an industry built around each that is responsible generating the plastic products needed, and each company has a responsibility to financially support the workers they employ.

Worldwide, the plastic industry generates over $ 1 trillion annually.

In the United States, the plastic industry has created employment opportunities for more than two million people.

7.   Sports and Recreation

foosball table shown from a birds eye view

Sports have also benefited from plastic. In hockey, football, and basketball, players wear mouth guards made from thermoformed plastic to protect their teeth from any harm caused by collisions.

The outer and inner shells and straps on helmets are all made of plastic. Helmets are the first line of defense against concussions and brain injury for cyclists, football, baseball, hockey players, and many others.

Plastic is also present in football fields because it’s used in the manufacturing of distance markers, kicking tees, colored pylon corner markers. Most stadiums use synthetic grass that is made from plastic.

Backyard pools use vinyl liners because vinyl is durable, flexible, and easy to clean.

8. Plastic-Based Clothing Gives Us More Freedom

legs wearing blue leggings and yellow shoes dangle from the back of a couch

The invention of rayon in 1914 led to the production of different clothing materials like spandex, nylon, and acrylics. These fabrics are used in making swimwear, shoes, jackets, and your favorite yoga pants or basketball shorts.

While it may not seem like we need these items, imagine hitting the gym or going for a swim in an outfit made of wool.

Waterproof rain boots that protect your feet from rain are made from PVC. Blended fabrics make stronger fibers that extend the wear life of our favorite garments.


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