Have you ever counted how many plastic pieces are around you? And, have you ever wondered if we don’t produce those items with plastics, what will they be replaced with? I believe many still cannot find an answer.
It took a considerable time for John Wesley Hyatt, an American scientist, to invent a synthetic material called “plastics”. The breakthrough emerged from the efforts to find a substitute for ivory to produce billiard balls. Since 1863, it has been more than a century that there is never a day humans cannot live without plastics.
Plastics in Daily Life
PET > Water bottle, cooking oil bottle, etc.
HDPE > Milk bottle, water bottle, and cleaning solution container, etc.
PVC > Water pipe, tubing, door, etc.
LDPE > Film, Food-containing packaging
PP > Food container, dish, bowl, drink container, medicine bottle, basket, etc.
PS > Foam food container
OTHER > Other plastic materials aside from the said 6 types.
Plastics have properties that offer strength, toughness, flexibility, durability and resistance to acid, alkali and chemicals. It can be molded into different shapes, dyed any color or be transparent. Light in weight, plastics can be mass-produced in a fast and low-cost manner. Notably, plastic can substitute nearly 100% of natural materials, while more benefits can be extracted further with its characteristics. For this reason, plastics are widely popular materials. In Thailand, the plastics came into widespread use after World War II.
The Two Sides of Plastics
The convenience derived from the journey of the plastics to date has resulted in the global plastic waste crisis. There will likely be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Thailand has faced an increasing amount of waste. In 2018 alone, Thai people contributed a staggering 27.8 million tons of waste, in which Bangkok produced 4.85 million tons, accounting for 17% of the total country’s solid waste. And of that waste, a mere 500,000 of 2 million tons were recycled, while the remainder is poorly managed and cast into the ocean, most of which were the plastic waste.
The global plastic waste crisis is exacerbated by inefficiencies of resource use, especially the single-use plastic products. We should get the best out of plastic products by reusing, recycling with proper waste sorting and disposal to keep plastics circulating and bring more value.
At this point, you may get a clearer sense of plastics and how the industrial plastics were made with good intention to bring greater convenience. In turn, the cost of convenience has made us neglect the environment. Therefore, Resource Maximization, Correct Sorting and Proper Disposal are key to help humans, and the world overcoming the crisis.