Plastics the Public Polymer

Ever wondered how did our culture became so plastic. Yeah right, just think about it what is the material you interact with the most in day to day life, is it metals like iron, copper, et cetera or long repeated chains of carbon — hydrogen bonded molecules (Sorry! I meant plastics).

Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

There are only a handful of technological advancements in human history that can compare of what plastics gave to our era. Plastics are everywhere and in every industry from space to deep water explorations, food industry, automobile industry, mobile phones, glass industry, textile industry, coffee shops, down to our grocery stores, right on the keyboard I am typing this from, probably the screen which you are reading this article was also once wrapped in plastic or a similar polymer. This list is far from complete. I strongly believe that plastic is the best tech product I have come across till date in my life. It is something that is used by everyone in the world because it is economical and had multiple properties desired by many industries.

Plastic is a type of polymer, polymers are large molecules made up of repeated smaller units. In case of plastics these units are mostly organic compound (carbon compounds) like ethane, propane, ethylene, chloroethene, et cetera.

Who could think that these small carbon compounds under specific chemical condition chain themselves into a material that is malleable, ductile and could be melted and converted into shapes of any form (rigid or flexible). Plastics have the property to replace materials like wood (plastic furniture), glass (fibreglass), fabrics (nylon). The versatility of plastics is what made it the best tech of the modern era for me. The need of plastic is at such a surge that we have produced about 9.2 Billion Tons of plastics since 1950. To bring out the enormity of this weight you could imagine its equivalent to 1,600 pyramids of Giza.

As always quoted, “Technology Is Always A Two Sided Coin”, we have enjoyed the wide use of plastics for decades and now we have started to see its negative impact on our life. We are drowning in the sea of garbage in todays world where many developed countries are not able to keep up with the garbage they generate themselves. This garbage has a majority part as plastics in it. The main reason behind this is that most of the plastics are not biodegradable, hence only recycling is not a permanent solution. We need to stop using plastics and our dependency on them.

Countries like India want to eradicate the use of plastics by enforcing multiple rules regarding ban on it but it still keeps surfacing up as an issue after few months of implementation. We still are in need to find a material that has all the versatility of plastics and is also not harmful to our environment. It would be one of the most difficult tech problem to come up with such material that fulfils our addiction for plastics and also saves the planet and the creatures that live in it.

All said it is clearly evident that how much has plastic intruded our lives that we knowing its adverse effects are still consuming it at a pretty high rate. This really makes one hell of a tech.