Solving the plastic crisis

Plastic is an issue that environmentalists have been working on for decades, with limited success. However, in 2017 things changed abruptly with the broadcast of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II. This documentary highlighted the negative impact of plastic waste on the world’s oceans and sea creatures, prompting a surge of concern around the world.

The first synthetic plastic appeared a little over 100 years ago with the arrival, in 1907, of Bakelite. By the 1940s, mass-production resulted in plastics coming into widespread use. In 1950s America, a shift in attitude occurred, where cheaply-produced plastics became perceived as disposable and this quality was even celebrated under the term “throwaway living”.

With its advantages of being cheap, light, mouldable, flexible and impervious to water, plastic’s unique qualities set it apart from other materials. Used in the making of a vast number of products, it now plays a central role in many people’s lives. While packaging is the number-one use of plastic, it is also the most unnecessary.

According to the best estimate, 9 billion tonnes of plastic have so far been produced worldwide. The past 60 years have seen an astronomical increase in quantity and, unless future production is reined in,

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