What the Future of Plastics Might Look Like
When Plastic Became the New Normal
During and following World War II, plastic production was greatly produced and used, allowing a big sector of American industry to flourish. Following the conclusion of the war and the Great Depression, the American economy began to build again, and plastic was at the center of it.
According to author Susan Freinkel, “In product after product, market after market, plastics challenged traditional materials and won, taking the place of steel in cars, paper and glass in packaging, and wood in furniture.” As more and more people began using plastic alternatively, the future of plastics was bright and filled with potential. Considering that plastic was an abundantly cheaper and safer product to produce, industry was on the cusp of greatness.
What Plastics Mean for the Future of American Industry
Today, plastics play a crucial role in the way we engineer and package goods. In reality, plastic distribution made the production of computers, smartphones, gaming consoles, modern medical equipment and many other important advances possible. As time progressed, plastics were the inexpensive and safe alternative to metals and lumber. This ultimately raised the standard of living and introduced the idea of mass production at much cheaper rates. Imagine our economy with products – such as the iPhone, Alexa, or Nintendo Switch – that were made with materials more expensive than plastic. In essence, products such as these would be astronomically expensive and out of reach to the everyday American consumer.
How Plastics Are Becoming Environmentally Conscious
So, with all that being said, we have taken into account that plastics have remained a necessary material to implement less costly, safer and longer-lasting products into the market. So much so that plastics scientists have begun developing, and are continuing to develop, more ways to make plastic environmentally friendly. Instead of traditional plastic engineering with fossil fuels, many scientists are opting for bioplastics made from plant crops and composted material. These advances would mean that plastics can actually decompose and be used for fertilizer and other natural means.
What might be the most important thing is that scientists know where plastics have been, but they know exactly where the material can go. For as much as American industry depends on plastics, the future holds great potential for plastics. Not only will plastics be used just as much as today, but the material is constantly changing to reduce as much waste and harm to the environment as possible.
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Source: History and Future of Plastics (Science History Institute)