Plastic: Wake-up call

by Mar 22, 2024blog

Plastic is definitely one of the most important materials today. However, excessive use of this material comes at a price.

There is no material today that is as present in everyday life as plastic. The use of this material in all branches of industry, from the production of packaging, through the construction sector, the automotive industry, agriculture to medicine, is a consequence of the plastic’s ability to be shaped and adapted to the most diverse needs. Moldable, durable in different circumstances, light and cheap, plastic is the perfect material.

Plastic materials are increasingly replacing parts that were previously made of metal, e.g. in the automotive and aviation industry, food and metal processing, as well as in the sports equipment industry. This replacement is conditioned by certain advantages, such as: low density, high resistance to chemical influences, great construction and production possibilities, transparency and relatively low price. It should be borne in mind that compared to metals, plastic materials have low strength and stiffness, low electrical and thermal conductivity, high coefficient of thermal expansion and a relatively small range of operating temperatures (up to 300°C) with frequent loss of dimensional stability.

However, the mass use of plastic carries a certain price – the use of fossil fuels in the production process and the inadequate management of large amounts of plastic waste represent one of the biggest environmental challenges today.

Global “plastic” trends

The production of plastics on a global scale has exceeded the production of all other materials. In the period of a little more than half a century, the production of this material grew at a high speed. Thus, in 1950, 2 million tons were produced, and in 2015, the annual production of plastic reached 322 million tons.

Health and environmental challenges of using plastic.

Due to production based on fossil fuels and the use of additives (pigments, hardeners, etc.), as well as due to inadequate management of plastic waste, plastic represents one of the greatest threats to the environment and human health in this century. According to the best estimates, 150 million tons of plastic waste have accumulated in the ocean so far, of which 23 million tons are various chemicals and toxins that are added to plastic as additives to enhance its characteristics. It is estimated that without adequate action by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans.

According to all previous noted, it’s very important to make efforts from all of us, people and government, to reduce usage of plastic materials and replace them with paper, wood, and other materials easy degradable and eco-friendly.

Students from OOU Petar Pop Arsov – Skopje Republic of North Macedonia