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Plastics Aren't Wrecking The Environment - People Are

03/07/2017 13:13 BST | Updated 03/07/2017 13:13 BST

What's the "vaccines cause autism" of your industry? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Miranda Marcus, Applications Engineer:

Look, plastics are not the root of all evil. Plastics are not creating a trash problem, people are.

  • People who want to have cheap food that stays fresh longer without the inconvenience of bulky packaging that needs to be returned to the store.
  • People who want to be able to carry things easily and not have to worry about bringing their own bags everywhere.
  • People who want to be able to throw things out rather than find ways to reuse or recycle them.
  • People who want cheaper products that perform well.
  • People who want to prevent theft of their products from the massive superstores that are so convenient.
  • People who prefer to buy things that are packaged nicely.

The biggest source of plastic waste is packaging and bags. Packaging is used:

  • To prevent damage during shipping of goods.
  • To maintain freshness so goods can be shipped farther and last longer on the shelf.
  • To create a pleasing display of the item to encourage people to buy it.

The problem is that each of these purposes have a very limited time frame, and when that purpose is served, we just throw out that packaging, just as we throw away our plastic shopping bags. People are not going to collectively choose to do things in a way that is more difficult and inconvenient in order to stave off a problem that is hidden and distant.

This is not plastics' fault.

Plastics are frigging fabulous.

Because of plastic:

  • We can create tiny microchips that have tons of computing power. Without plastics we would have no cell phones, laptops, smart watches, flat screen TV's, etc.
  • We can manufacture compact and powerful batteries and insulate electronics. Without plastics we would have no solar panels, cable / telephone wire, pacemaker batteries, electric vehicles, etc.
  • We can revolutionize the health industry. Without plastics we would have no inflatable mattresses to reduce bed sores for immobile patients, CT scan machines, tubing to transfer fluids, IV bags, disposable syringes to prevent the transfer of diseases.
  • We can reduce fossil fuel emissions. Without plastics we severely limited in ways to generate and distribute power. Additionally, plastics enable making vehicles lighter in order to use less gasoline.

With plastics, we can live more comfortable, longer, and more connected lives.

I am tired to death of people wanting to "ban plastics" when really they just want to find a more environmentally responsible way of packaging and carrying goods, or alternatively, to encourage recycling of all materials (cardboard and metals clog landfills too).

If you want to ban plastics it's just a sign that you have no idea what they're used for.