The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

February 8, 2013

Living in the Age of Plastic

By Ian Faulkner, Staff Writer

Friday, February 8, 2013 — The Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age have all come and gone. Are we in the Age of Plastic, now?

Most people would say yes; we’ve progressed beyond the point of the Iron Age and the new modern medium is plastic.

Plastics are synthetic or mostly synthetic compounds that are characterized as being moldable.

After WWII, plastics saw a huge rise in applications and manufacturing.

Within each age with the development of new, sturdier materials, novel tools and technology begin to arise that revolutionize the way the world works.

What I don’t understand is what people did before plastic. It seems like such an indispensable material; it’s used for nearly everything — you can’t go eat out in public without encountering plastic in one way, shape or form.

Plastic has come to replace metals in many of the objects we use on a day to day basis: certain car parts, containers, utensils.

We even use plastic to pay for a lot of the things we buy nowadays.

With the Age of Plastics has come this new idea of a “throw-away” culture. People don’t buy items constructed from durable materials, intended to last for a lifetime.

Most of the products we buy are disposable and as a result, a lot of plastic ends up in landfills where it just sits there.

Could you imagine being a warrior in the Dark Ages, breaking your sword and just throwing it away?

Of course not! You took it to a blacksmith and had it fixed or reforged.

Nowadays, most products aren’t designed to be fixed. They’re designed to work until they break; the only advantage to this manufacturing process is cost.

With most items being constructed of platic, this significantly lowered the prices of a lot of these goods, so that when it does break, you can afford to toss it and get a new one.

The end result, however, is a landfill full of items that will not decompose in our lifetime.

I‚Äąguess this is my point: When we primarily used stone, bronze or iron, we didn’t let our tools and construction go to waste.

Even today, you don’t throw away steel, bronze or copper, you recycle.

So why are we not recycling our plastics more thoroughly?

Because of our “throw-away” culture, people, for the most part, regard plastic as trash rather than a reusable commodity.

I know what you’re thinking: “They got another tree hugger working down at the SNAP!” But I grew up in the ’90s when conservation and recycling hit a trend in popularity (one of the cartoons they pushed on my generation was “Captain Planet,” an ecologically aware and passionate superhero).

Honestly though, isn’t it a waste of resources?

Why go through the trouble of creating plastic from scratch when we have plenty of plastic that can be reused?

Don’t we have better things to do with our time in the Age of Plastic?