Plastics: As Planet-Friendly as they are Prolific
There seems to be a common misconception among Americans that plastics are not environmentally friendly. The thinking often goes that since they are made from fossil fuels, they can’t be good. However, the reality is quite different. In fact, plastic products save more energy than it uses to make them.
According to the American Chemistry Council, “plastics, even those sourced from fossil fuels, can actually conserve our nation’s energy.” As an example, in a recent article put out by the ACC, they demonstrate that by incorporating plastics into construction of homes and businesses, the “little bit of energy (inherent in plastics) can save a whole lot of energy over the lives of our homes and buildings.”
Here’s a simple way to look at it: plastics are one of the most universally useful products, incorporated into more applications and industries than even conceivable. Rather than judging this product by what it took to make it, its overall footprint should be judged by its long term effects, lifespan, and efficiency, as well as the myriad ways it achieves this.
The aforementioned article points out the energy savings of plastics in construction—saving about 467.2 trillion BTUs of energy each year. Likewise, in the auto industry, plastics make cars more lightweight and sturdier, requiring less components and materials—and therefore make them more efficient. In packaging, the strength and lighter weight of plastics mean transporting them requires less fuel and results in less shipping damage and the elimination of additional packing materials—obvious environmental benefits. The list of energy savings by industry and application could go on and on.
What’s important to realize is that for as many uses as there are for plastics, there are short- and long-term environmental advantages.
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