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living in a world of plastic

Plastic is not the enemy. Maybe we are.
 
Recent movements in the industry are calling for bans against single-use plastic. The messaging has focused on plastic being the enemy.
But have we thought of the implications of this?

Let’s say, we create a ban on plastic bags and containers. Those you see in groceries, fast food chains, and shopping areas. More often than not, they replace it with "alternatives". But what do these entail?
 
Paper Bags
“Because it’s biodegradable, it’s good”. This, we need to rethink. Paper, despite its renewability, presents a huge impact on the planet. The possibility of illegal logging, followed by a transport system that carries tons of carbon emissions, to its processing with possible toxic run-offs. And when it does finally degrade, it releases methane.

 
“Eco” Bags
We bet you have a ton of these at home, purchased from the supermarket, and every now and then forgot to bring it. Did you know that if you wanted to offset the carbon emissions of a woven polypropylene (AKA a durable plastic) bag, you’d have to use it about 500 times?

 
Glass
If you had to transport 1000 cases of soda bottles, would it be better to transport the plastic or the glass version? In the perspective of carbon emissions, it’s plastic. The heavier the cargo is, the harder it is to carry. And this takes a toll on fuel economy.

 
With these said, let’s not forget all the other benefits that plastic has brought to humanity:
 
Hygiene
Take a look at the hospital industry. Can you imagine us going back to metal syringes and spreading diseases like crazy?

Food security
Food doesn’t grow everywhere and we need to transport it to areas where it’s needed the most. And for a third-world country, all we have to make this happen is carrying goods with plastic.

Building things
As industries start building "green" structures, vehicles, and other things, composites are quickly becoming a popular choice as the material. They are essentially a fibrous mix of plastic material and bio-based materials. This effectively makes structures much lighter and as a result, more environmentally-friendly.

Okay so what now? Do I just live like Adam and Eve?

You can try, but it’s probably not gonna happen. The answer is to compromise and be more conscious of our behavior. From not buying things we don’t need to reusing and buying second hand. If you have a reusable item, use it as many times as you can.

On a bigger scale, it also means supporting innovations and efforts that move towards alternatives that actually work, like the cassava bags that dissolve in water. But for now, we must do our best to recover the plastic (especially in the ocean) and maximizing its use as it is, after all, here forever.