Climate Change and The Plastics Industry

One of the most pressing issues of today is the impact that climate change will have on our daily lives if we don’t drastically reduce our carbon emissions in the coming years. The largest contributor to carbon emissions is the fossil fuel industry, which is intimately linked to the growing plastics industry. Plastics Engineering, a profession in the plastics industry, involves the processing, design, development, manufacturing, and application of polymeric materials in engineering settings [1]. As an emerging Plastics Engineer, the predictions I hear about our Earth are deeply troubling, and I frequently wonder whether I am pursuing a sustainable, ethical profession. 

Read More

Can Organisms Eat Plastic? A Scientific View

Plastic pollution is one of the most critical problems our society faces. The consequences of plastic pollution can be observed in every corner of the world. Ocean garbage patches, twice the size of Texas, are currently floating in the Pacific Ocean. Furthermore, we consume at least 7,000 microplastics per million from the dust floating in the air, which settles on our food. The future of plastic waste does not forecast a solution to this growing plastic pollution problem. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, scientists estimate that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.

Read More

The Use of Solvents in the Plastics Industry and Safer Alternatives

The global plastics demand is expected to reach 334.83 million tons by 2020, representing a market of USD 654.38 billion according to a new study by Grand View Research. Inc [1]. As of 2013, the global plastics demand was 233.75 million, thus the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) will be 5.3% from 2014 to 2020. If you’ve been checking out this site, you know that plastics materials have many advantages compared to metal and other materials such as light weight, ease of processing, more cost efficiency and more. There is no doubt that the plastics market will keep growing in the future. But there are potential sustainability concerns behind this promising market. One major worry is recycling; people have realized that the plastics can persist in the environment for hundreds of years and will cause serious environmental problems without proper disposal. Besides that, the use of a very large amount of solvents in plastics industries is another issue which is lesser known to the public.

Read More

China's Ban on Imported Plastic Waste and Why it Matters

On January 1st, 2018, China issued a new ban on imported waste plastics  from any outside country. This was done as a part of their ongoing initiative to reduce pollution, as the recycling of imported waste can result in the release of unwanted pollutants into the environment. Of the many countries affected by this ban, the United States may be hit the hardest.

Read More

BPA #2: The Dangers of BPA in Our Oceans

Okay, so we’ve established that Bisphenol-A (BPA) doesn’t seem to be a major threat to human health in its current concentration levels, right? Humans are exposed to far less BPA than is generally recommended as “safe” by many governments all over the world, so it appears that BPA is far smaller of a problem than people make it out to be. However, BPA is still bad for humans, regardless of concentration. This dangerous chemical can still have many adverse effects when ingested or absorbed into the human body, which occurs via many food and water sources. Unfortunately for us, a significant portion of the food we eat and water we drink comes from water sources supplied by the ocean.

Read More

BPA #1: The Safety of BPA in Polycarbonates and Epoxy Resins

The debate regarding the use of Bisphenol A has plagued consumer markets regarding the disputed safety of this chemical. Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, is the main constituent of polycarbonate plastics. Polycarbonate materials are used everywhere from CDs to food storage containers. In addition to its use in polycarbonate plastics, BPA is also found in epoxy resins which are used to make products such as paints, protective coatings, and metal food can linings. According to Chemical Market Associates Inc (CMAI), close to 2.8 million tons of BPA were produced in the year of 2002. Thomas Zincke is credited with the initial synthesis of BPA in 1905, when he combined phenol and acetone to create this useful compound. The synthesis of the chemical into plastic materials came in the year of 1953 by Dr. Hermann Schnell and Dr. Dan Fox.

Read More

Ocean Microplastics: what are they, why are they bad, and what are we doing to phase them out?

With so much plastic floating around in the ocean, it’s easy to see the big stuff - plastic bottles, fishing nets, chunks of foam, and other everyday objects that we still can’t seem to dispose of properly. But what about the plastic in the ocean that we can’t see? Microplastics, or small plastic pellets, powders, fibers, and even fragments of larger plastic waste between five microns and one millimeter are also very common in the ocean and extremely damaging to this fragile environment.

Read More

Welcome to the new Site

I've been dreaming of this site for several years now. Thanks to a CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation, I finally have the funding and time to put it together. I know this will be a long work in progress, but as a mentor of mine once advised, start small, start with anything, and momentum will take over. The purpose of this site is to help people understand the role of polymers and plastics in their daily lives, and help sort out myths and facts about products we use every day. As someone who cares deeply about the environment, and a chemical engineer with fascination with and appreciation for the technological achievements of the past 100 years, I feel it is my responsibility to guide people to correct information about materials and sustainability.

To say our relationship with plastics is "love-hate" is an understatement. Plastics provide food security, life saving medical devices, and light weight transportation, to name a few of their critical roles. However, some of them also contain toxic chemicals and can present problems with trash generation. How does the average consumer deal with these complex issues? Well, getting educated is a start. 

You've come to the right place!