is all plastic evil?

Is All Plastic Evil?

Plastic waste is undeniably one of the biggest issues of our time, and we’ve long been bombarded with scary statistics on how widespread the problem is.

So, this week’s #8Shades8Weeks challenge is all about reducing your reliance on single-use plastics – simply BYOB (bring your own bottle) anywhere this week for your chance to win yourself a reusable and customised 8Shades water bottle from Casetify! 

Even though plastic has a bad rap, it’s not all evil. Here, we break down some of the reasons why plastic can (sometimes) be good. 

It keeps food affordable and fresh

Plastic keeps food affordable and fresh, and shipping food in plastic is cheaper and less resource-intensive than other materials, like glass. This is especially important in developing countries that often don’t have the infrastructure to store food safely for long and are less likely to eat enough fruit and vegetables, which causes almost 1.7 million deaths worldwide.

If plastic was not so widely used to preserve food, more communities would likely suffer from malnutrition. Plastic is also durable, meaning that it can handle long periods in transit, vital for countries that rely on food imports.

grocery store shelves with plastic bags of food

While many foods are wrapped in unnecessary amounts of plastic – there’s no denying that this needs to change – it’s unlikely that the food industry will completely ditch plastic when we need affordable food (and lots of it).

Plastic is also arguably the best option for developing countries since many don’t have the infrastructure or funds to develop eco-friendly packaging.

It supports employment in developing countries

Plastic waste has also become its own form of currency in many developing countries, who receive a lot of waste from richer nations. In 2018, the US sent 157,000 shipping containers of plastic waste to developing countries. Countries like the US absolutely need to improve their own recycling programmes, but the imports bring in money for developing countries and are a source of employment for thousands of people. 

a pile of plastic waste

It keeps things sterile

Finally, in the medical industry, plastics are used to keep things sterile. Syringes and surgical implements are all plastic and single-use that wouldn’t survive the temperatures needed to kill bacteria and viruses through heat sterilisation. However, sterilising metal syringes isn’t feasible and glass is too heavy. 

Essentially, the problem is not so much the fact that we’re using plastics but that we’re using the wrong kind of plastic. 

The real solution? Avoid Single-Use Plastic

While we can’t fully avoid plastic, we definitely need to reduce our dependence on most single-use plastics. Plastic bottles, straws, coffee cups and shopping bags are not only super harmful for the environment, they’re also completely unnecessary since there are so many reusable alternatives

reusable set of cutlery

The biggest problem with ending single-use plastics is their convenience. So, until consumers are willing to give this up and say “no” to single-use plastics, plastic providers will continue to produce it.

See also: 8-Week Challenge: 8 simple swaps for single-use plastics

We may think that we’re powerless in the battle against plastic waste, but when you consider that the most disposed-of items include straws, grocery bags and drink lids, we have a much bigger role in the solution than we think.

Banning all plastics is unlikely to happen (and shouldn’t!), but we can reduce our reliance on avoidable single-use plastics. All it takes is a few small changes – for example, buying your food at local farmers’ markets, bringing a reusable bottle instead of a plastic bottle of water every day and bringing your own produce bags to the grocery stores. This will reduce our carbon footprint and encourage those around us to do the same. 

See also: Plastic-Free July: 8 Ways To Take Part