Some people view plastic as the epitome of all that is wrong in the world. They see it as a man-made material that stands in complete opposition to nature. They see plastic as an unnecessary evil the world would be better off without. Stop and think about that. Imagine a world without plastic. It wouldn’t be pretty.
For the record, plastic is not the antithesis of nature. It is actually derived from nature. Most plastics are petroleum products. Petroleum itself is natural, being the result of plant and animal decomposition. Petroleum companies take a resource that has very little value in the ground and turn it into useful products, including plastics.
Chemistry aside, can you imagine what life would be like without plastic? It staggers the imagination. A world without plastic would be a quite different world.
Your Car Would Be a Gas Guzzler
What kind of mileage do you get out of your car? Is 30 mpg about right? Regardless, your car owes much of its fuel efficiency to plastic. Without all the plastic parts, your car would be a lot heavier than it is. And a heavier car burns more fuel. A world without plastic is one in which your car would be a gas guzzler.
Lest you think the solution is switching to electric vehicles (EVs), it’s not. EVs feature a ton of plastic parts for the simple fact that making electric cars work requires making them as light as possible. You could not make an EV as heavy as a 1952 Pontiac Chieftain and still get useful range out of it.
Say Goodbye to Take-Out
Perhaps you could live with driving a car that gets considerably less mileage. But do not plan on driving that car to your local coffee shop or fast-food joint for take-out. Without plastic, take-out does not exist.
Every take-out food container is made of some combination of plastic and paper. Paper alone will not cut it. Take plastic out of the equation, and what are you left with? A scenario in which restaurants would have to utilize glass and metal containers. But that would make take-out too expensive. By the way, there is a reason take-out was hard to find prior to the advent of mass-produced plastics.
Entire Industries Wouldn’t Exist
We could continue talking about consumer products you would not have access to without plastic. But let us go one step further. Let’s talk about the fact that entire industries would not exist if there were no plastic. Take industrial plastic recycling.
Seraphim Plastics, based in Tennessee, is one of a number of recycling companies that turns industrial plastic waste into usable regrind material. Their entire business model revolves around plastic. Without plastic, they have no business.
Likewise, the injection mold industry exists only because plastic parts have to be manufactured. In a world without plastic, there would be no need for injection molding. Completely eliminating plastic at this point would put a whole lot of companies out of business and send their workers to the unemployment line.
In addition to all of this, a lack of plastic would mean higher consumer prices across the board. So many of the things we can now buy cheaply are only cheap because plastic is cheap. If we were forced to replace plastic parts with alternatives made from metal, wood, or other materials, we would pay more at the cash register.
Plastics are an embedded part of modern life. Unfortunately, we take them for granted. Many of us do not realize just how different the world would be without them.