Plastic is an excellent material you can find countless uses for. In today’s age, that can be a kitchen appliance, a toy car, or even parts of a real car. There can be both advantages and disadvantages of plastic from both short-term and long-term standpoints. This non-biodegradable substance is now the center of arguments due to environmental concerns. Given its numerous applications and uses in the modern era, it’s difficult for the world to switch to alternatives, despite knowing its long-term dangers. As technology advances, scientists are innovating new technologies such as recycling. Can there be more benefits of plastic use? Let’s answer that.
Advantages of Plastic
Plastic has become so popular partly because it’s now made from recycled materials, lowering the need to use new, expensive stuff. That’s not all, though. The world is undoubtedly a better place because such a material is available to help humans easily carry out everyday tasks. Some notable advantages of plastic use are as follows.
1. Healthcare Services
Plastic is a cheaper and safer alternative to glass or other materials that can be used to store or supply vital medicines. For example, most manufacturers package liquid and solid medicines in plastic casings, whether fluids or pills. Plastic casings are very strong and durable, making them safe to store liquids. Since plastic doesn’t break down as glass or metal do, plastic packaging lasts a very long time — even multiple centuries.
2. Tools and Appliances
The kitchen is the usual place you can spot plastic materials, from spatula to mixer. Plastic is lightweight, sturdy, and enduring, making your daily chores easier than ever, from cooking to doing the dishes. The utensils made of plastic are heavy-duty and don’t break regularly when put under stress or pressure. On the plus side, they are waterproof — an important characteristic when you need something to offer protection against liquids.
3. Plastic can be Recycled
According to the August 2021 market research, the global plastic recycling market is estimated at $45.5 billion and is expected to reach $65.3 billion by 2026. One of the key advantages of plastic is that it’s easy to recycle. Similar materials like paper and aluminum are also recyclable but not as common in consumer items. Plastics make up a much larger percentage of waste than the other two. That means facilities dedicated to this purpose will gladly help your recycling need because there’s more demand for the material.
One of the benefits of plastic use is how easy it is to clean and sterilize. Since plastics are non-porous, they don’t hold onto bacteria or other microbes as much as materials like wood or metal. This makes them useful in hospitals and restaurants, where maintaining a sterile environment is pivotal for safety reasons. Plastics have better chemical properties than other materials, too. This can be very useful when you need to store food or medicines that might otherwise react with the material.
5. Automobile and Electronics Industries Depend on Plastic
Plastic is a popular choice when making cars and bikes because of how lightweight it is compared to metals. This reduces the amount of fuel needed to power these vehicles, which benefits both the owner’s pocketbooks and our environment. We also use plastics to create electronics and appliances because they can be effortlessly molded into any shape or form. Plastic is also lightweight, making the products great for devices that must be moved around quite a bit, like laptops and cell phones.
6. Subject to Innovations
Many developing nations have found a way to use plastic waste for greater benefits — construction materials, for instance. Plastic is the perfect choice due to its sturdiness and reliable nature. Plastics don’t rust or wear off during rain, so using them in construction means you won’t have to worry about dangerous metals corroding and causing problems or injuries. Moreover, their waterproof nature makes them useful when building things in moist or wet conditions.
7. Cheaper manufacturing and industrial cost
Plastic is a wonderful material for manufacturers and developers. It is not only durable enough to withstand harsh conditions but also cheap enough to provide economic benefits to industrialists. Many popular products such as TVs, refrigerators, A/Cs, and even cars use plastic materials as a substitute. In fact, with the advancement of technology, many industrial products have shifted from things like glass and metals to plastic.
Using plastic in the manufacturing process reduces the overall cost. And it also makes the finished products much cheaper and more readily available to the masses. Hence, plastic benefits from economies of scale. And it is the first choice of manufacturing.
Disadvantages of Plastic
Even though plastics are extremely useful, they come with some downsides that you should keep in mind. Here’s a rundown of some disadvantages of plastic use based on their severity:
Plastics have an extremely long lifecycle even in harsh conditions —1000 years in landfills and 450 years in the ocean. That’s also the main problem — they don’t break down like other materials. Instead of perishing and becoming less harmful to our environment, plastics remain intact and become litter and pollution concerns. Disposable plastic items like bags and bottles contribute greatly to these environmental issues because they can harm wildlife if left behind or improperly disposed of.
Many plastics contain toxic chemicals that can make people sick if they consume them in large doses or over a long period. Disinfecting tools with harsh chemicals means those toxins will be transferred onto your body when you handle those items. This then transfers into your mouth after touching those chemicals with your hands. Disposable plastics have the same problem. They still consist of materials that allow toxins to easily transfer into our bodies even if we don’t directly handle or eat them.
3. Plastic is Non-renewable
One of the many drawbacks of plastic is that they are not renewable. Plastics consist of oil, which means the raw materials for these items must be carefully managed. There will always be more demand for petroleum products, so you can expect prices to continue rising as time goes on. One way this might affect your life in the future is if you’re forced to use higher quality plastics because regular low-grade materials become too expensive.
4. Environmental Harm
Plastics pose a threat to nature because they never break down — even in natural soil. If wildlife doesn’t ingest them, they turn into litter and pollutants once discarded inappropriately. This accumulation of trash is dangerous for animals and plants because they cannot digest these unnatural plastic elements like humans. Therefore, exposure to too many plastic materials can cause illness and death and disrupt the growth of future generations.
5. Effect on Wildlife
If plastic items are left behind or inappropriately disposed of, these materials can cause serious harm to wildlife, including aquatic and land animals. We mentioned animals often eat plastics whole, but they don’t break down in the stomach like other foods. This can block an animal’s digestive tract and cause death, hence it’s important to recycle all of your plastics. Disposable items also share the same problem; many of them use toxic chemicals that make animals sick if animals eat or touch them.
6. Plastic is a Major Pollutant
While it is true that plastics are cheap and have benefitted both the rich and poor economically, it is not suitable for the planet. Plastic ranks amongst the worst killers on the globe, right alongside carbon monoxide and CFCs. Today, plastic holds the crown for being the worst water pollutant, even more so than oil. Thus, no matter how beneficial, plastic is not sustainable enough for our lives.