As a result of recent legislative developments regarding
plastic waste management, the importance of clear definitions of plastic
becomes apparent. The word
plastic is used to describe a wide range of materials, but the materials that
this includes and excludes can vary significantly. Without apropriate definitions
for plastic in legislation, biobased developments devised with those very
issues in mind may become prohibited.
What is a plastic?
Problems with plastic are at the forefront of the
conversation when it comes to environmental issues. However, definitions on
what a plastic actually is are rarely discussed.
technical point of view, plastics are moldable polymers, taking their name from
the term plasticity – the ability to deform irreversibly without
and polypropylene are commonly seen plastics – two of the world’s most widely
used plastics and commonly seen in packaging. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) too
is used widely, in drinking bottles for example. Some lesser used plastics, and
sometimes used as alternatives to these include polylactic acid (PLA), widely made
from plant biomass and industrially compostable, and cellulose, the main
component in plant cells but can be used to produce cellophane. There are many
other examples, made both in nature and in factories.
how consumers define plastic can be somewhat different, almost as though the
word plastic has come to mean nothing quantifiable. It simply represents a
material that is bad for the environment. When people think of plastics, they
think of single-use plastic bottles, straws and carrier bags strewn across road
verges and beaches.
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