I have spent a lot of time making a case for the sustainability of plastics and plastic packaging to combat all the misinformation that dominates contemporary discussions of plastics and the environment. Susan Freinkel's Plastics, A Toxic Love Story, discusses the sociological construction of plastics as evolving from representative of man's mastery over the natural environment after WW1 to representative of our society's over consumptive habits. In other words, in targeting plastic bags or plastic bottles, we are scapegoating our collective fear of our ever-depleting natural environment onto a tangible item, thereby ignoring the underlying mechanisms that facilitate our unsustainable models of production and consumption. Heady stuff!
So color me surprised when I came across this pro plastics article from liberal newsource NPR. Titled "The Weird, Underappreciated World of Plastic Packaging," this piece looks to highlight how plastic packaging reduces food waste and is in fact an engineering marvel, not a waste of resources, but an efficient and innovative use thereof. Author Maanvi Singh writes,
Like it or not, plastic packaging has become an ingrained part of the food system.
While it's clearly wasteful to buy salad, sandwiches and chips encased in plastic and then promptly throw that plastic away, we take for granted how it keeps so much of what we eat fresh and portable.
And behind many of those packages that allow us to eat on the go or savor perishable cookies or fish imported from the other side of the globe is a whole lot of science and innovation.
It are articles like these that will begin to change the perception of plastics in our social imagination from cheap and wasteful to demonstrative of human ingenuity, which any chemical or packaging engineer will argue they clearly are (no pun intended!).