After the first 3 articles (Plastic fake news, Wrong beliefs – part one, Wrong beliefs – part two) where we have deeply analyzed the wrong beliefs we come across when talking or hearing about plastic, we have now come to the end of our journey. In this article we want to debunk two more wrong beliefs regarding plastics bad reputation and finally draw the conclusions trying to demonstrate how this material is actually useful if not necessary in our everyday life.
Fake news n. 5: Plastic last hundreds or thousands of years in the environment.
Some people, without any scientific proof, state that plastic can last up to one thousand years in the environment. How could they possibly know it if plastic has only been discovered little more than a hundred years ago? Truth is that plastic, as long as it is not spiked with stabilizers or antioxidants, in open air can deteriorate in few years. Being made of carbon, as all the organic materials, its decomposition through chemical reactions occurs as quick as the one of leaves, food, cotton and so on. This is the reason why, in order to stabilize it and make it stronger, for many applications stabilizers are required.
Frequently we hear that plastic does not truly degrade but only fragmentates in microplastics. Why would a material only degrade until a certain point? Reality is that the smaller the pieces are, the faster they will degrade because oxygen can easily penetrate them. If today we can use plastic in the most varied fields of application it is thanks to the discovery of additives that make it last in time. These substances though don’t make it eternal but they extend its life, without them plastic would degrade at a too fast pace due to oxygen.
Fake news n.6: Plastic consumes planets’ resources.
Planets resources are not infinite and human beings are consuming them faster than they can regenerate. One of the resources that is being mostly consumed is petrol that is a non-renewable source. Even if plastic is being produced from petrol, it is not responsible for its shortage. Of the nearly 80 million barrels that are being extracted daily, 90% is used for the production of energy (electric and thermal) and fuels and the remaining 10% is being transformed by chemical industries in fertilizers, solvents, food additives and medicines. Plastic, even if only in small part (4 – 6%) can be found in this 10%. Considering the small fraction of oil that is being transformed to produce plastic, it seems clear that, in order to save the planets’ resources, the first step must be finding alternative solutions to electric and thermal energy and fuels coming from petrol.
At the end of this journey, we hope to have sufficiently clarified how, despite its bad reputation of being the biggest polluting cause for the environment and the cause for all the waste and litter, plastic is a material without which we could hardly live. Its environmental impact would be minimum if it wasn’t for human beings’ poor management, that creates devastating effects. It is therefore fundamental other than rightful that everybody plays their part in the protection of the environment through the search of truthful information backed by scientific data. This in order to avoid mystifications and false alarms that would create more damages than advantages to the planet. After all, as we stated at the beginning, “Without data you’re just a person with an opinion” – mr. W. Edwards Deming and unfortunately opinions of misinformed people are dangerous for our future.
Sources The plastic paradox – Chris DeArmitt
A scientific approach to the problem of plastic – eng. Andrea Azzini – article found in rePlanet