WHAT IS PLASTIC? WHY STRIVE ZERO PLASTIC?

April 25th 2020 3-minute read

 

According to Wikipedia, plastics are a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic compounds that are malleable and can be molded into solid objects. Most commonly, manufacturers use petroleum derived feedstock to make plastic due to their low cost and ease of manufacturing. Our biggest issue with plastic is how long it lasts in our environment. If we make materials that never break down on our planet how can this be sustainable for our future? I will be writing about Biodegradability and Compostability soon so you can learn more but for now these two terms should be considered the reference to an idea that materials can break down over time. It is also the reason why we don’t support bioplastics like PLA unless they can decompose back into the Earth with no harm.

 

If this plastic definition seems too broad for you then you think a lot like I do - How in the world will I know if I am using plastic and how can I avoid products that contain plastic? Check out our guide below to help you identify commonly known plastics and their chemical names.

 

It is not known the exact amount of time Plastic lives in our environment. Recent studies suggests it can be up to 1,000 years in a landfill depending on size and materials. There is significant environmental impact as plastic degrades because it then creates “microplastics” that are small which is easily mistaken for sand or food. For marine animals ingestion at high levels plus the environmental impact can result in death or contamination of our food source. Microplastics were most prevalent in skin care products as a scrub ingredient (PMMA) before becoming banned December 2015. Single-use plastic bans have been occurring throughout the world to immediately reduce products that have a one-time use and then quickly end up in the waste bin.

 

If you thought recycling might be the answer to our plastic issue you might be surprised to know that manufacturers produce approximately 225lbs (100kg) of plastic per person per year globally. It is estimated we average a recycle rate of 14%. That’s right- 86% ends up in the landfill. Most plastic packaging is noted with a recycle symbol along with a 1-7 number stamped into it. The majority of these numerical categories are not supported in our recycling system for the US so If you are tossing them into your recycle bin it is very likely will still end up in a landfill. Check with your local waste management company to decide which bin to use.

 

Let's also consider the other places plastic can be found: clothing materials, home goods, treatment products, and most surprisingly beauty care formulas. Truth be told its in nearly every industry and is not required to be listed on all product labels. With all these factors in mind we decided as little plastic in our life as possible is the only real solution to sustain a healthy planet.

 

 

 

Plastic Name Reference Guide

 

Acrylates

Acrylic

Acrylic Resins aka Acrylic glass

Acrylic acid (propenoic acid)

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)

Cellophane- Viscose rayon from cellulose fibers, when treated with polyethylene

Copolymers

Furan 

High-density polyethylene (HDPE)

Laminate

Low density polyethylene (LDPE)

Lycra

Maleimide/bismaleimide 

Melamine formaldehyde (MF)

Methacylates and Methyl methacrylate

Nylon

Phenolics or phenol formaldehyde (PF)

Plexiglass (Crylux, Plexiglas, Acrylite, Astariglas, Lucite, Perclax, and Perspex)

Polyamides (PA)

Polycarbonate (PC)

Polydiketoenamine (PDK)

Polyepoxide (epoxy)

Polyester (PES)

Polyetheretherketone (PEEK)

Polyetherimide (PEI)

Polyethylene (PES)  , 

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)

Polyimide 

Polylactic acid or polylactide (PLA)

Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)

Polypropylene (PS)

Polysulfone 

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) 

Polyurethanes (PU)

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

Resins

Rayon

Silicone

Spandex

Teflon

Urea-formaldehyde (UF)

Varnish

Vinyl

 

Great Additional Reads

 

https://learn.eartheasy.com/articles/plastics-by-the-numbers/

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/how-long-does-it-take-garbage-to-decompose-2878033

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plastic

https://www.forbes.com/sites/grrlscientist/2018/04/23/five-ways-that-plastics-harm-the-environment-and-one-way-they-may-help/#b5cd74567a04

https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/conservation/issues/single-use-plastics.htm