Friday, March 10, 2017
Is plastic really that bad for us? Hardly. Misusing plastic is bad for us. Improperly disposing of plastic is bad for us. Dumping ton after ton of plastic garbage in the ocean until there is a literal island of it floating in the middle of the Pacific is bad. But plastic as a material is an invaluable product.
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Replacing the plastic packaging that is in use today, according to one European study, would use four times as much material from other sources, like paper or aluminum. The key reason why: Plastic is lightweight. Your typical plastic quart milk jug, according to studies, is about 90 percent lighter than its equivalent glass container and about 30 percent lighter than a paper carton. Less packaging means less waste and less energy spent on transport.
A 2007 analysis looked closely at the environmental impact of half-gallon milk jugs, and again plastic fared well. The typical high-density polyethylene, or HDPE, jug was lighter than other alternatives, required less energy to produce, and generated in its life cycle (including shipping) less than half the greenhouse gas emissions of glass and 25 percent less than paper milk cartons. The study confirmed that plastic's major benefit is the fact that it's lightweight.
There are a number of studies that have showed that even though plastics are made from petroleum, they use less petrol-chemical energy than glass!
There are these benefits, the plastics industry points out, and then there's the obvious one: Plastics are recyclable, able in most cases to be used over and over again. The problem is, Americans, even as global warming becomes more and more accepted, don't take recycling seriously. In 2006, Americans consumed more than 29 million tons of plastic, but recycled just 2 million tons of it, an embarrassing 7 percent.