Plastics / by kevin murray

There is that great seminal line in "the Graduate" which was released in 1967 as follows:


            Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word…..

            Mr. McGuire: Plastics.

            Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?

            Mr. McGuire: There's a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?


Everybody remembers that line: plastics.  But that line wouldn't be remembered and it wouldn't be true if plastics hadn't been such a profound and fundamental change in not only America but also all over the world.  Instead of paper bags when we get our groceries, it's often plastic bags.  Instead of glass bottles for our soda, it's plastic.   Instead of glass containers for food items, it's often plastic.  Our detergent containers they are in plastic.  Game consoles are plastic as is the packaging itself.  Plastic surrounds us and is often a major component of the products that we use, consume, and integrate with.  For better or worse, plastic is an integral part of our everyday life.


Plastic is favored because of its awesome versatility as well as its cost and despite justified criticism over its non-biodegradability and ubiquitous polluting problems it’s the right product at the right time and it's definitely here to stay into the foreseeable future because there isn't anything available to easily replace it with.  Therefore the better part of valor and realism is learning to deal appropriately and responsibly with plastics as compared to trying to legislate it out of existence with an ill-timed attempt to replace it with products that often will have the same issues of environmental damage and inconvenience but simply of a different flavor, along with the requisite increase in cost to the consumer at large for the switchover to products that are less versatile and cost more to produce in time and energy.


According to, Japan in 2010, recycled: "77% of plastic waste" which compares quite favorably to the United States paltry rate of just 20%.  The type of steps that America needs to take are similar to what has been accomplished in Japan in which the waste-processing plants work in conjunction with the manufacturers of the plastic material to best come up with solutions that are economic, recyclable, and practical.  Taking a longer term perspective and getting all parties to sit down at the same table is often more conducive to solutions that will be of a much greater net benefit for the public at large.  Consumers are only too willing to do their part to recycle plastic if properly educated and encouraged to do so.


As The Graduate put it nearly fifty years ago, plastics not only had a great future back then but they have a great future going forward.  We take plastics for granted in such common household items such as hoses, household plumbing pipes, cups, cell phones, toys, syringes, computers, and many others.  Plastics have help make our modern world a better place to live in and therefore the successful and prudent recycling of plastic at a much higher rate than currently heretofore produced, is a mandatory step for our continued enjoyment and our stewardship of our planet.