General Article Why plastics may not always be the worst option for the planet

Topic Selected: Waste and Recycling Book Volume: 385

By Emma Gatten, environment editor

In the struggle to achieve a green life, plastics have become enemy number one. Images of dead dolphins, their stomachs full of plastic bags, and turtles skewered by straws have raised public consciousness of the damage plastics cause in our eco-systems. 

But a new report has warned that in the war on plastics, we are at risk of turning to alternatives that could be just as bad, if not worse, for the environment. 

Is plastic bad?

Plastic was invented during the Industrial Revolution, and in its early years was seen as a miracle alternative to depleting and expensive natural materials. 

It has revolutionised the way we live and is used in everything from medical equipment to make up. 

‘Plastic is light and durable and has many incredible properties that others don’t have,’ says Dr Rachael Rothman, the associate director of the Plastics: Redefining Single-Use project at the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures. 

But the fact it is cheap, hard-wear...

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