The Disadvantages & Advantages of Plastic Material

by Alexander Sam; Updated September 26, 2017
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Plastics have been around since 1868, when John Wesley Hyatt created celluloid, which was the first American plastic. Since then, plastics have been designed for all different uses, but are most notably used for consumer packaging. Industries have touted plastics for their inexpensive costs and multiple uses; however, they have also been blamed for being highly wasteful and a threat to the environment.

Advantage -- Economical

From a business and consumer market point of view, plastics are economical and very inexpensive to produce mass quantities. They provide an alternative to more expensive raw materials, making them the clear choice when searching for low-cost packaging materials. Plastics are also a relatively strong material, making them reliable for a number of different uses, like plastic bags or inexpensive patio furniture. The flexible nature of plastics means they tend to contort before breaking, which increases their durability in most situations.

Advantage -- Easy To Fabricate

Plastic materials are easy to manufacture and create with few costs. Most plastic products are created by using special molds, which the take the liquid plastic and construct it into the desired shape. One mold is used multiple times, making the process predictable and easy. Plastic are easier to fabricate than metal components and require less energy and time for the process. Workers don't have to be as skilled as metal workers, which makes it possible to use workers with little experience.

Disadvantage -- Not Biodegradable

A clear issue that has come with the increased use of plastic materials is the waste that is created with their use. Plastics are not biodegradable and because they are often used only temporarily, they create large quantities of waste in landfills. They have become one of the most wasteful materials that are used today. They are a temporary solution as a material, but become a permanent problem after their disposal.

Disadvantage -- Raw Material Costs

The production of plastic materials requires large quantities of crude oil as the main ingredient. Increasing oil prices and difficulties in obtaining oil have meant that the costs of producing plastics is gradually rising. The process of producing plastics also requires large amounts of energy and increases the strain on the environment to provide raw materials for a wasteful material that is highly difficult to recycle. The process of plastic production produces large quantities of toxic emissions, which contribute to the greenhouse gas effect.

About the Author

Alexander Sam is an avid photographer/traveler. After completing a trip across India, Thailand and Laos he decided that he wasn't made for the cubicle job. Presently he is backpacking across South America and hopes to find himself in another part of the world at this time next year. Sam studied sociology at York University.

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