The time of year of the Feast of Saint Valentine. The celebration of romance may turn our minds towards relationships and light-hearted fun. In the commercial arena, however, the political climate surrounding our industry is toxic. Why then should anyone love plastic?
Synthetic plastic has been with us for over a century. It was Leo Baekeland (the Bakelite inventor) who coined the term ‘plastics’.
However, it seems that a century later there is a populist ‘war on plastic’.
What have plastics ever done for us?
Here are 7 reasons you should love plastic – facts provided by The British Plastics Federation (BPF).
- Plastic is lightweight – Over the lifetime of the average car, lightweight plastic parts save around 3,000 litres of fuel 
- It’s durable – Plastic pipes are designed to last for more than 100 years and also reduces the overall failure rate 
- Plastic saves water – The production of a plastic bags consumes less than 4% of the water needed to make a paper bag 
- It helps protect products – Products sold loose suffer from huge in-store waste in some cases leading to losses of 20%.
- Plastic prevents food waste – wrapping Bananas in a modified atmosphere bag extends shelf-life by 2 to 3 days 
- It’s recyclable – all plastic can be recycled but it is not always technically or economically possible. If plastic can not be recycled the calorific value of plastic can be recovered through energy from waste plants. Recycling one tonne of plastic bottles saves 1.5 tonnes of Carbon 
- Plastic only uses 4% of the world’s oil production – the rest is used for transport, energy, heat or is burnt.
Furthermore, the BPF states “the environmental cost to replacing plastic with alternatives materials would be nearly 4 times greater” 
Due to their low cost, ease of manufacture, versatility, and imperviousness to water, plastics are used in a multitude of products of different scale, including paper clips and spacecraft. They have prevailed over traditional materials, such as wood, horn, stone, bone, glass, leather, metal and ceramic.
Plastic makes a huge contribution to our modern economy. 6200 plastic firms in the UK employ over 170,000 people. That’s the second biggest British employer – an industry with a turnover of nearly £24 billion.
Clearly there are huge challenges for the industry. Problems that require massive investment and new research. The plastics industry is working on a range of initiatives to reduce energy, increase recycling and prevent litter. That’s why Hardie Polymers supports the BPF’s campaign on marine litter.