by Elisa Thelvarik


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$$\large \utilde{ \color{rosybrown} Evolution\ of\ Plastic }$$

Plastic wasn't always a terrible thing. When it was first invented in 1907, it was used as a substitute for ivory which helped to slow down the poaching of elephants. As time went on though, many began to realize this revolutionary new product had terrible implications. The harmful effects of plastic were first discovered in the 1960s and have only continued to compile.

Even after the discovery of the harmful effects, corporations continued to use these products at a higher rate creating a battle between convenience and sustainability.

Buying plastic products is inevitable. It is embedded into our everyday life, from the saran wrap we use in the kitchen to the plastic containers used for household cleaning supplies. We can, however, control the amount of plastic we use and what we can reuse.

$$\large \utilde{ \color{rosybrown} All\ Plastics \ Aren't\ Equal}$$

[Video Credit [Description: Video from the Essential Plastics Coalition explaining the several types of single-use plastic and what they do]](https://youtu.be/QYqURIrRVoM)

Video Credit [Description: Video from the Essential Plastics Coalition explaining the several types of single-use plastic and what they do]

In my light research, I found the Essential Plastics Coalition, founded in 2020 to defend essential consumer products from unnecessary restrictions. They bring up massive points about single-use plastic:

Not all single-use plastic is the same.

Plastic pollution has always been under fire for obvious reasons, but legislation has tried to solve the problem by banning or restricting plastic products like straws and cutlery. These products are small and easily replaceable with more sustainable options like bamboo or metal straws.

The Essential Plastic Coalition's whitepaper talks about low-value single-use plastics as the primary culprit of big waste.

However, there are high-value single-use plastics that are necessary for food storage, healthcare, and crises.

For instance, plastic water bottles are of high value because they are easily storable water that can be distributed to millions during water contamination crises. A huge example of this was the Flint, Michigan instance where citizens had contaminated tap water and needed fresh bottled water to survive. I agree that plastic bottles can be needed in areas without the proper filtration for water, however, buying a case of water for convenience is a completely different story. If you can, choose to use a reusable water bottle that can be washed and utilized every day.

Another example of essential plastic products include N95 masks which are rapidly produced in the healthcare industry to protect workers. These are needed to take care of COVID-19 patients. It is vital for healthcare workers to have access to PPE, and there is no negotiating when it comes to the "reuse" of contaminated equipment. ****

<aside> πŸ‘‰ If you would like to explore this healthcare sustainability issue, check out my other article on this very topic!

</aside>

The final plastic of high value that I want to hit on is the use of packaging in the food industry. Without this packaging, food would spoil faster, and grocery stores would face two problems. They would have a higher turnover of food because of food rotting at a quicker pace. Due to this they would buy less food at a time to keep from wasting product leading to food shortages.

Image Credit[Description: Image of the different values of plastics- High-value plastics, moderate-value, and low-value]

Image Credit [Description: Image of the different values of plastics- High-value plastics, moderate-value, and low-value]

$$\large \utilde{ \color{rosybrown} Breakdown\ of\ Plastics}$$

$$\substack{ {\normalsize It\ is\ one\ world.\ }\\ {\normalsize And\ it’s\ in\ our\ care. }\\

{\normalsize For\ the\ first\ time\ in\ the\ history\\ \ }\\ {\normalsize of\ humanity,\ one\ species\ has\ the\ \ }\\

	{\\normalsize future\\ in\\ the\\ palm\\ of\\ its\\ hands.\\ }\\\\

{\normalsize \color{tan} β€” David\ Attenborough}\\

}$$

I understand where they are coming from with the high-value plastics, but my concern is that more plastic companies would exploit this hierarchy of single-use plastics and make sure their products are always labeled as "high-value plastics."

Healthcare products like saline bags, tubing for blood transfusions, and needles should be exempt, but things like food storage plastics could be replaced in the future. I do not think they should be "exempt" per se but kept under special considerations. There is always room for innovations and ground-breaking technologies, so it would be inappropriate to leave them out of environmental research.

However, we need to reduce low to moderately valued items first before we start cracking down on the vital products used for times of emergency and out of necessity.

Image Credit[Description: Image of trash on a beach]

Image Credit [Description: Image of trash on a beach]

$$\substack{ {\normalsize We\ don't\ need\ a\ handful }\\ {\normalsize \ of\ people\ doing\ zero-waste}\\

{\normalsize \ \ \ \ \ perfectly.\ We\ need\ millions\ \ \ }\\

{\normalsize \ of\ people\ doing\ it\ imperfectly.\ }\\

{\normalsize \color{tan} β€” Anne\ Marie\ Bonneau}\\}$$

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