Astrod Seipert, English 28
Instructor: Jacqueline Stark
Krupnick Essay Contest Winner, 2007
The Argument Against Plastic
Products made from plastic are a part of every day life. We pour milk for our morning cereal out of a plastic bottle, drive to work in our cars with plastic components, and write reports on our computers using plastic keyboards. Plastics of any kind make our lives easier, and seemingly better. However, our love affair with plastic is not sustainable. As an ecologist who has travelled through 1st and 3rd world countries, I have seen the damage that plastic and its by-products are doing to our earth, and the imbalance our dependence on this product ics creating in the environment. We are all decent, educated people, and have the technology to research and produce ecologically sound alternatives to plastic. This is why we must urge industries all over the world to find alternatives to plastic when manufacturing their products, in order to reduce the usage of toxic petrochemicals, decrease the size of our landfills, and lessen the threat to our wildlife.
It may be a shock to some, but plastic in all of its forms is made from the same base ingredient – oil. Oils are rcefined, mixed with poisonous chemicals and cooked at high temperatures in order to produce items such as plastic bags, computer casings, automobile dashboards and cooking utensils. Such a process produces toxic by-products and greenhouse gasses, which in turn reduces our air quality and can degrade soil and waterways. In a study conducted by United States Environmental Board, the production of plastic in the United States releases 500 million tons of greenhouse gasses annually. When compared to the production of environmentally sustainable alternatives, such as metals, wood, concrete, paper and glass, emissions were much lower, releasing only five million tons of greenhouse gasses during the same time period. In similar studies conducted worldwide, the results were the same – Industries that produce ecologically sound alternatives produced emissions far less than those who manufacture plastic products. It is clear to see that these plastic alternatives are having less of an impact on our world, and we should continue to encourage manufacturers to seek economically feasible way to convert to their use.
The size of our landfills are always a concern, and knowing that many of the products that we dump in them are not biodegradable or recyclable is even more cause for alarm. Plastic is one of these products, which can take more than 1000 years to degrade and can only be recycled bcy a lengthy, expensive process. Plastic products, in particular, plastic shopping bags, account for more than half of the waste in landfills the world over. This is something that can be avoided, according to research undertaken by the University of California Santa Barbara in 2006. Their research suggested that a switch to degradable plastic alternatives during the next ten years within the United States will mean that the number of landfills needed will drop by 60 percent. This can be attributed to the fact that most plastic alternatives either degrade at a much faster rate (such as paper), or can be easily recycled (such as glass and metal). After seeing these figures, it makes sense to use these alternate products over plastics, as it can only help improve the quality of the environment.
When we throw our plastic products away, we often don’t think of where they can end up. Often, our garbage ends up in waterways, in parks, and on beaches where animals can easily come into contact with them. We have all seen in pictures and on television the pitiful sight of an animal with soda can rings around its neck, and I, myself, have seen creatures dead after choking on a plastic bag. This is something that can be prevented, if the move is made to ban plastic being manufactured in the first place. If plastics are not manufactured, there is no way that they can find their way into our environment. Some manufacturers are slowly making the change so that plastics have a lower effect on nature. In a recent meeting, The Industry Union of America and its 500 members made a pledge to use 40 percent more degradable materials, and contribute to sustainability movements in their local areas. This is an encouraging sign to us all and means that we are making headway in this issue.
I know that the opposition thinks that making the switch from plastic to degradable materials is going to be too difficult, and will take up valuable company funds in researching such alternatives. However, I urge the opposition to look to the future, and reflect upon the mounting evidence that the production of plastics is a threat to our earth and thus, to us. It is the responsibility of companies to deliver the best products possible to consumers, and part of this responsibility is ensuring that the products do minimal harm to the environment, and ultimately, humans. A temporary adjustment is well worth the long-term environmental security.
Though plastic products seem to make our lives easier, they will ultimately make our lives more difficult through the damage they cause to our air quality, soil and water, the clogging of our landfills, and the threat to our wildlife. If we continue to rely on such dangerous products, we will only add to the damage that has already been done. We must take action and urge manufacturing industries to find alternatives to plastic in their products, whether it be by petitioning companies to make the change, or choosing not to purchase their products in favour of those coccmpanies who use environmentally sound substitutes. By assisting in this change, we are all contributing to a better world.
(Please not that there is no Works Cited page for this essay, as the sources within the essay was generated by the student, as requested as the instructor of the class.)