Are there responsible applications for plastic?

As a planet we need to rethink the way we use plastic. Around the world countries have taken steps to reduce the damage caused by tons of plastic waste. So why is plastic so dangerous and should we stop using plastics all together?

The reason plastic is so dangerous is because it takes a very long time to decompose. This also happens to be one of plastics strengths as a material. In the early 1950s when plastic started being used commercially, nobody thought it would become such a problem. Since then plastics have come a long way, and yet, despite the combined efforts of governments, plastic waste is still a huge threat, particularly to our oceans.
So are all plastics the problem? Plastics, being the incredible material that they are, not only last long but are also fairly strong, easy to manipulate and mold and relatively cost effective. All of these strengths mean that in many cases a product can have a lower carbon footprint if made from plastic as opposed to a biodegradable natural alternative. For example a plastic bag can have a carbon footprint less than 100 times that of a cotton bag. That however does not mean that we should rather make everything we possibly can out of plastic, it's that kind of thinking that got us in this mess in the first place.

“With great power comes great responsibility”. To use a material that lasts an incredibly long time to create products that are only intended for a single use or a short period of time, does not make sense. Some plastics are recyclable and others are not, but even if they are, only a small percentage make it all the way to a plastic recycling plant. Most end up in landfills, oceans and incinerators (burning plastic releases harmful toxins). If plastic were strictly only used for products with long term applications the waist would be much more concentrated and easier to recycle. The products themselves will still be able to benefit from the impressive properties of plastic, and the manufacture process will likely also have a lower carbon footprint than many other materials. We must also consider the materials saved when a synthetic is made from plastic.

For example, Nuteak PVC synthetic teak fills the role of a teak deck without impacting endangered timbers. Burmese teak is under extreme pressure with almost no legally sustainable suppliers left in the world. The USA, EU and UK have imposed sanctions on the import of Burmese teak because of major environmental concerns due to illegal and irresponsible logging. Trees are also being harvested before they reach maturity which results in inferior timber. The high demand pushes up the price, which fuels illegal deforestation and results in the endangerment of certain plant species.

Innovative long lasting applications for plastic are already used in many industries, including construction, agriculture and the marine industry. The durable, waterproof and non corrosive properties of most plastics result in high quality, long lasting products in these industries. Rather a durable plastic house, irrigation system or boat, lasting a very long time serving a constructive purpose than disposable plastics lasting a very long time devastating sea life in our oceans.

At ICA Group we mostly develop marine products, the inspiration for which stems from a love of the ocean. So we take seriously our responsibility to conserve and protect our planet and oceans. Through innovation and responsible use of durable materials we strive to ease the pressure on endangered timbers and work towards a cleaner future.

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