Why Plastics?

July 1, 2023 by Student Sigurd R.

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Learning Targets

  • 21st Century Skills
  • Applied Sciences & Technology
  • human systems and stewardship
  • Self Direction

Driving Question:

How can I further understand the past, present and future of plastic through scientific tests, research, and inquiry, including and relating to the chemistry behind plastics?

Project Summary:

Sigurd R.’s project challenges the commonly negative perception of plastics by highlighting both their detrimental and beneficial aspects. He begins by acknowledging the environmental harm caused by single-use plastics, such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the danger to sea life. However, he shifts the focus to the often-overlooked positive uses of plastics, particularly in the medical field where they are essential for procedures like open-heart surgery due to their sterility, versatility, and low cost.

Sigurd also explores the historical use of plastics, noting that early forms of plastic-like materials, such as rubber, were used by the Mesoamericans as early as 1600 BCE. This historical context sets the stage for a broader discussion on the definition and perception of plastics. He argues that plastics are diverse and not well-defined, encompassing a wide range of materials beyond the common single-use items.

He emphasizes the versatility, durability, and affordability of plastics, which make them invaluable in numerous industries, including automotive and food transportation. Sigurd acknowledges the environmental issues associated with plastics but argues for a balanced perspective that recognizes their essential role in modern society.

Lastly, Sigurd touches on the future potential of plastics, mentioning innovative uses like conductive polymers. He cautions against a blanket rejection of all plastics, suggesting that doing so could hinder technological and scientific progress. His ultimate message is to encourage a nuanced understanding of plastics, recognizing both their benefits and their environmental impacts.