It may have been invented in the 1850s, but Plastic only really became part of our everyday life around a hundred years ago when Cellophane and Bakelite developed into commercially successful materials, and yet, if you spare a moment to look around you today, you will find this wonderfully diverse material is just about everywhere.
From cars and kitchen appliances, to furniture and electrical goods, almost everything we use is made out of, or includes plastic in one of its many forms, and as manufacturers strive to create better, lighter, more energy efficient products from a cost-effective material, it looks as though plastics are here to stay.
Plastics ultimately make our lives easier, and with an estimated 80% of the UK adult population holding at least one credit or debit card, it just goes to show that even our money has been plasticized to keep up-to-date with the modern world.
So why do plastics get a bad rap from the environmentalists? Well, some may say that plastics use too many natural resources to produce, that they contain harmful chemicals, and that they will take at least 500 years to break down, something only time will tell.
Others could argue that plastics make our cars and airplanes lighter and therefore more energy efficient, it reduces the weight of medical equipment so it is easier to transport, and as it is cheaper to manufacture than many of the alternatives, it allows us all to enjoy life’s little luxuries such as a laptop or mobile phone.
There are always two sides to every story, and while it may be easy for us all to blame a simple supermarket carrier bag for the plastic waste littering up the countryside and ocean, if we all make a conscious effort to reduce, reuse and recycle the plastics we use, we can all take advantage of this highly practical material, without damaging the environment.