Plastics - From Dependence to Desistance​

November 18, 2019   Param Kapoor       2  min read

From the wheel to paper to guns, each generation of mankind has a defining creation. Yet none may be as beneficial and relevant as plastics have been. Due to the invention, countless developments in energy, storage, transportation, and other sectors have been made at unparalleled rates. We have depended on plastics to be the premier tools at our disposal ready for any and every issue we face, a trait that can be traced to a single factor – the cheapness of the material, both in production and consumption. With no economically comparable alternatives, plastics continue to be produced in mass, with no sign of slowing down any time soon – resulting in one of humanity’s biggest environmental threats. Within the span of one century, we’ve created swirling garbage patches in the ocean and towering landfills, leaving no area on our planet untouched by the material. Whether it be ecosystems of the world or our very own bodies, plastics infiltrate every nook and cranny in the world.

Yet the biggest problem of plastics isn’t in our generation; It will be in the next. Due to their complex chemical compositions, plastics tend to not be easily disposable or degradable, taking anywhere from five hundred years to over a thousand to biodegrade, i.e the entire duration of the Roman Empire. In order to prevent an apocalyptic future submerged in plastics, we need to rethink our approach to them.

The paper ahead will go in-depth into the creation, production, distribution, and realization of the toll plastics have on our environment. It will discuss the implications of our bearings on the environment and it will lay out potential solutions to take. It examines several relations between nations and their plastics outputs, comparing metrics such as GDP and HDI. A preliminary thought would imply that more developed countries would be eco-friendlier, yet a deeper look highlights a seemingly inverse trend.

To date, much of the research on the impact of plastics on human health has focused on a specific moment in their lifecycle such as manufacturing, product testing, or disposal, when in reality, the true toll of the material should be calculated looking at the whole cycle of its existence, from creation to disposal. A deeper, all-encompassing understanding of plastics can then subsequently, teach us how to be smarter with it and preserve our environment simultaneously.

To read the full paper, download here: