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The Problem With The Artificial Materials of Rubber And Plastic Materials

Updated on March 13, 2017

The Widespread Use of Artificial Materials

We have all grown accustomed to the sight of plastics, rubber and other artificial products in our modern lives. What may slip our minds is the fact that the materials truly are artificial. Truth be told, in our daily lives, we may even see more artificial materials than natural products. However, in the world today there is a call to take the natural route in satisfying our energy and literal material needs. The unsustainable nature of use and manufacture of substances has caused considerable damage to the environment. The situation and problem with artificial materials are one of irony but cause for major concern nonetheless.

The Inception of These Materials

Firstly, we must understand how materials such as plastic and rubber are created. Both plastic and rubber are made from petroleum. This means that to construct these materials, the raw material of oil is needed. This alone causes a host of problems for the environment. The drilling alone may cause oil spills, of which several we have seen over the past decade alone. A relatively new oil capture technique called fracking involves pumping large volumes of water into the ground at extremely high temperatures to release trapped oil and gas. A fracking project in the US can use as much as 8 gallons of water which can causes droughts, very severe case of water contamination and has even been linked to earthquakes. The drilling may also directly release greenhouse or toxic gases into the atmosphere. After the drilling phase, the actually burning of the fossil fuels can release tons of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Another important fact is that large amounts of this energy is wasted as heat. We tend to use plastic to hold and store food and drinks but plastic actually has pores that can hold pockets of bacteria which can fester on food. We have seen the effect plastic has on the environment, not just strictly in terms of environmental pollution by creating an unsightly and taking up space but also the direct effect is has in the animals. It can choke and poison wildlife and cause the problem of flooding.

The Real Problem and True Irony

We have seen the effect plastic has on the environment, not just strictly in terms of environmental pollution by creating an unsightly and taking up space but also the direct effect it has on the animals. It can choke and poison wildlife and cause the problem of flooding.The real problem with the materials, however, is one of great irony. Among other reasons, plastics were created because of a desire for durable, stronger and longer-lasting materials. And this is exactly what has been created. But interestingly, this is the very reason why plastics and rubber are so problematic. There was always a drive to create longer-lasting materials but, in the end, all these materials will eventually serve their purposes and be discarded. The problem is that these materials cannot simply be discarded because they are too durable to degrade on their own. We have the natural materials of wood, metal, paper, and even cement to some extent. All of these last for some time but eventually degrade into simpler substances, which may then be used to rebuild the same material with its original strength, or some other material by some natural process. But because all products eventually reach a date where there use is over, if this material is not easily decomposed, it cannot be reused in another form. Thus our environmental situation is one of extreme irony, that we have created durable materials that ended up being too durable.

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    • mike102771 profile image

      Michael Collins 5 months ago from Lakemore, Ohio

      Like the great Yogi Berra said “when you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

    • ninjaapple profile image
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      ninjaapple 5 months ago

      Fair enough. I agree. There is no single fix-all solution. But there are more environmentally-friendly alternatives, at least for the time being. Baby steps I suppose. But it is interesting to think of what could have been had we not taken this road when we met the fork.

    • mike102771 profile image

      Michael Collins 5 months ago from Lakemore, Ohio

      There are more plastics being made and developed using natural ingredients including soybeans. These types of plastics are more biodegradable.

      Here in Ohio we had a city that separated the trash at a separate facility which was a success until the city found an outside vendor for trash collection that was cheaper in collection cost (but didn’t care for the environment). Doing this would be cheaper and easy to do. Switching to some sort of natural-degrading product will not cleanup areas that are already dirty. There is a cost in everything we do and use including the naturally-degrading products. Even these must be disposed of right or they can be as much of a problem as the non-biodegradable stuff. It’s like the argument over buying “American” over buying from Walmart (China). People will buy the product that cost less over the one that is made locally. But realistically there is no one simple fix-all solution to this problem. It will take all of us to end this throw away mentality. Produce less trash.

    • ninjaapple profile image
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      ninjaapple 5 months ago

      I speak of natural materials in the sense of materials that can be obtained directly from the natural environment, pure or impure. Even if we were to put in place this "trash reform", eventually we probably create some better material and the plastics and rubber will outlive their use. What then will be do with all these hard to destroy materials. Also, this "trash reform" you speak of is impossible because no matter how great the effort we will NEVER get every single human and organization strictly on board and non-biodegradable products will end up in the environment. Furthermore as it is, the trash currently in the environment, from deep in the earth to the depth and far reaches of the sea will likely never be completely cleaned. The situation is only getting worse by the day. This is why is say it is much simpler to use naturally-degrading products to greatly simplify the matter.

    • mike102771 profile image

      Michael Collins 5 months ago from Lakemore, Ohio

      Fracking was invented in 1947 but has a history that can be traced back to the American Civil war (http://oilprice.com/Energy/Crude-Oil/The-Real-Hist... The current obsession over fracking is more political than factual. As of right now there is no scientific evidence linking fracking to earthquakes. Fracking is not the cause of droughts. Lack of rain causes droughts. Also, places like southern California(SC) have a hard time claiming to be in a drought being that they are in a mostly desert clement. People want to grow crops in the desert because of the year-long growing season. Growing food takes a lot of water. Water that a desert does not have. So, they diverted water from rivers (changing the ecology of the entire west coast). Then the rain stopped. This didn’t stop or even slow the SC farming down. The lack of rain and the over use of river water created a drought.

      I remember watching these film strips back in school (yes, I’m that old) showing ecologists going to landfills and unearthing newspapers from the first world war that look as if they were just printed yesterday. The deforestation of the forests has had a drastic effect of the clement. We are slowing removing one way nature creates the oxygen we need to live.

      Metal is not natural it’s man made. The process of creating metal from mining to processing is toxic to the ecology. Even more toxic than the process of making plastics. There are many places in the world poisoned from this process as well as all the mines needed to unearth the raw materials such as iron ore and coal. The strip mining for these materials has destroyed many places around the world. The process of refining iron ore is toxic and let’s not go into the whole burning of coal on the environment.

      The real problem is not plastic. It is how we use plastic and more importantly how we dispose of plastic. Most plastics (such as the bag pictured above) are recyclable. I worked in a plant that made plastic toys. In that time, I witnessed the conversion from new raw plastic to the use of recycled materials. This included the machines needed to break down such things as plastic bags back into a raw form that can be reshaped into any form. the real problem is that we are a disposable society with little concern over the effects of our waste. We fill our landfills with materials that can be recycled because it is just too inconvenient to do the right thing. It’s like blaming the car for the actions of the driver. What we really need is trash reform.