I was doing some extra research into plastics as this is another material the media seems to be demonising this is what I found out it might surprise some people.
Every day, plastics help us dramatically lower environmental impacts
A new study adds to the growing body of research on how plastics help us reduce our environmental footprint… by reducing material use, energy use, waste, and carbon emissions. This latest study finds that the environmental cost of using plastics in consumer products and packaging is nearly four times less than the cost of using other materials. The study says that replacing plastics with alternatives that perform the same function would increase environmental costs from $139 billion to $533 billion annually. Yikes! Why the lower environmental cost for plastics? Because plastics help us do more with less material
Plastic packaging helps dramatically reduce both packaging waste and food waste
We all want to do more with less. Strong, lightweight plastics enable our packaging to do more with less. Similar to the study above, many life cycle studies have found that plastic packaging delivers more food with significantly less waste, energy use, and global warming potential than alternatives. And by extending the shelf life of healthful, nutritious foods, a little bit of plastic packaging can prevent a whole lot of food waste, a huge environmental problem
Plastics make up 50% of today’s cars, which helps significantly improve fuel efficiency
Lighter cars = less fuel use. To help our environment by improving fuel efficiency, carmakers are increasingly turning to strong yet lightweight plastics, including carbon fiber-reinforced plastics. Auto experts estimate that modern cars are comprised of 50 percent plastics by volume, yet only ten percent by weight. Did you know that just a ten percent reduction in vehicle weight can increase fuel efficiency six to eight percent over the life of today’s cars? (And these lightweight plastics already play an integral role in many auto safety features: seat belts, air bags, interior cushioning, crumple zones, bumpers, safety glass, and so on
Plastic building and insulation products save an enormous amount of energy
Nearly 40 percent of America’s energy is used to power our homes and buildings—mainly for heating and cooling—so increasing home energy efficiency can help significantly reduce our energy use. Plastic building products—from foam insulation to caulks/sealants to PEX pipes—help homeowners save big on energy use. A life cycle study found that the use of plastic building materials saved 467.2 trillion Btu of energy per year over alternatives. That’s enough energy to meet the annual average energy needs of 4.6 million U.S. households! The small amount of energy inherent in plastics saves a huge amount of energy over time.
We’re recycling more plastics
Plastics recycling has grown dramatically since we began measuring in the 1990s, and today we have access to recycling programs for a growing number of plastics, including bottles, caps, containers, lids, and bags/wraps (see below). According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans recycled more than 6 billion pounds of plastics in 2015 (the last time they calculated)! And we can expect to recycle even more plastics in the years ahead.
There are more than 20,000 places in the U.S. to recycle plastic bags and wraps
And your curbside recycling bin typically isn’t one of them. Instead, plastic bags and wraps can be taken to recycling bins in front of more than 20,000 U.S. grocery and retail stores. You can recycle grocery bags, bread bags, food storage bags (even the sealable ones), shipping pillows, bubble wrap, dry-cleaning bags, overwraps for beverage cases, and more. Just make sure they’re clean and dry. Even though lots of people are surprised to learn about recycling bins at stores, in 2016 we recycled nearly 1.3 billion pounds of bags/wraps!
Plastics makers are working to keep plastics out of our oceans
Everybody agrees that plastics don’t belong in our oceans—yet marine litter remains a stubborn, global problem. Plastics makers across the globe are working together and partnering with governments, scientists, and others to find workable solutions to keep plastics out of our oceans. To date plastics makers have announced more than 355 projects to address marine litter, but there’s much more to be done. We all can do our part by working to prevent litter and by recycling everything we can.