It’s all about plastics

Few other materials produced by man and used for daily applications raise a heated discussion as does plastic.

by Mario Grosso

A recent declaration on plastic ( has been promoted by many scientists, building on the United Nations Environment Programme global assessment on plastic pollution. It reads in part that ‘current practices of production, design, use and disposal of plastics have severe negative consequences for ecosystem health, biodiversity, human health including fertility and cancers, climate, sustainable livelihoods, cultural diversity and therefore human rights worldwide’.

On the contrary, the advocates of plastics, as well as the plastic industry itself, emphasise the crucial role of this material in improving the quality of life in many different fields. The last report by Plastics Europe ( reads,

Today, plastics deliver numerous benefits to society. They help feed the world in a safe and sustainable manner; they contribute to more energy efficient buildings and houses; they allow great fuel savings in all transportation means ensuring the transition to a green mobility, and they can even save our lives.

Undoubtedly, plastics are key materials in innovation and in reducing energy demand while reducing green gas (sic) emissions. And as essential materials for society, our sector must ensure that plastics are sustainable and have a positive impact on people and on the planet.

Is there any chance to find a balance between such opposite perspectives? We are literally surrounded by plastics, and it is difficult to imagine what a world without any plastic would look like. Forget your laptop, all electronic appliances, a great portion of your car. But also trains, aeroplanes, medical devices, and so on. Each time that we want to phase out something which is perceived as negative, we must consider what the alternative would be? And we should scientifically assess whether such alternative is actually more sustainable, leaving aside the purely emotional motivations.

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published: Sage Journals, 5|2022
Keywords: Plastics, Italy