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Is a post-plastic world possible?

Can't live with it, can't live without it? Mother Jones article: Plastic: Fantastic? gives an interesting background to our modern dilemma with the substance that can be almost anything...but does that include environmentally friendly?

Plastic's capacity for near-infinite proliferation initially seemed like a boon...And therein lay the rub. Inexpensive to make and easy to discard, plastic morphed from an engineering triumph into a global scourge. In 1960, Americans sent 390,000 tons of plastics to the landfill; today we annually trash more than 28.5 million tons—around 11 percent of all municipal waste. Plastic doesn't biodegrade, and the very characteristic that makes it so versatile—its protean ability to be resilient or stiff, soft or hard, opaque or transparent—makes it extremely difficult to recycle efficiently.

The article makes the point that we may not necessarily have a choice between natural (good) and synthetic (bad). Plastic has been responsible for better food preservation, more efficient packaging for transport, and greater energy efficiency with insulation. The area I always have a hard time envisioning plastic-free is the medical industry. In order to preserve sterile conditions, hospitals go through disposable plastics at an alarming rate. In an instance like this, searching for biodegradable plastics may be necessary.


Tags: Biodegrade, Hospital, Incinerator, Landfill, Plastic, Waste

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