(Newswire.net -- September 25, 2013) Anaheim, CA -- "Plastics generally improve the quality of life. I don't want to see plastic bags and bottles at the beach, either. But to me, that's not a plastics problem. Those plastic bottles and bags are completely recyclable. It's people” says Bob Malloy a professor and the chairman of the plastics engineering department at UMass-Lowell (Boston Globe, September 28,2008)
The plastic industry has been getting bad press for decades. We read stories about how plastic is not biodegrading fast enough in our landfills, being found in beaches or killing our marine life-- an overgeneralization that people believe is a growing phenomenon due to exposure from mass media. Even with huge changes in how plastics are made, the bad press continues. Many of the main plastic manufacturers are moving away from fossil fuels to plant based plastic materials. The press seems to be ignoring this. And, this isn’t the first time America has over reacted to plastic.
On April 1,1987 entrepreneur Lloyd Harrelson had found an opportunity to convert 3,168 tons of trash from Islip, Long Island, New York and ship it to a landfill in Moorehead City, North Carolina- where a pilot program was being developed to turn this trash into methane. Unfortunately, Mr. Harrelson never got to see this opportunity realized. As the Mobro 4000 barge was about to dock in Morrehead City the news broke and soon started public debates and even lead to a temporary restraining order preventing it from docking. The World Watch Institute said that…” over half the cities in the US would exhaust their landfills by 1990.” However, what the media failed to disclose was that federal regulations were forcing smaller landfills to close making it seem like we were running out of places to dispose our trash. In the end a judge ordered the barge to be burned in a Brooklyn incinerator. Ironically, the Mobro 4000 sparked America’s conscience for more recycling programs.
To say that all plastic is “bad” is like assuming all papers (rice, tracing, wallpaper, wrapping paper, toilet paper, waxed paper, etc.) or metals (silver, aluminum, copper, gold, lead, and titanium) produced are the same. Then why would so many industries like the automotive, medical, food processing and electrical be driven towards plastic? The answer is simple. Plastic is inexpensive to manufacture, resilient and lightweight. This means that there is less packing, less waste and less energy spent on transport (with pricing that is usually determined by weight).
Plastic Milk gallons made out of high-density polyethylene or HDPE require 50 percent less gas emissions to produce than its predecessor (glass jugs) and 30 percent less gas emissions than paper cartons (and HDPE is 100% recycleable). Environmentalists argue that plastics are petroleum based products. While this is true the fact remains that plastics use less petro energy than glass. “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.” (Boston Globe, September 28,2008) The jury should not be out for plastic as the culprit for landfill waste. Rather the lack of human responsibility to recycle plastics properly is to blame, and what we should hold ourselves accountable for.