Plastic is a useful substance. We use it to make countless everyday items and seemingly, we can’t live without it. It is relatively cheap to make and it is convenient as well. However, all of this comes at a price that our environment can’t continue to bear.
Conventional plastic is a petroleum product. To put it another way, plastic is made from oil. Oil, as you know, is a fossil fuel and fossil fuel is a finite resource. We are rapidly running out of this finite resource and while there still are oil deposits to be found, searching for them will become more and more dangerous, not only with respect to the crews mounting the search, but also to the environment itself. The explosion of the oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico and subsequent oil spill is just one example of the perils we face in the future.
To give you an idea of how plastic impacts the environment, it is estimated that plastic use consumes two hundred thousand barrels of oil a day in the United States. That is two hundred thousand less barrels that could be used as fuel. In addition, plastics now take up one quarter of all the space in landfills across the country. What this means is that twenty-five percent of landfill space is filled with stuff that isn’t going to degrade away.
There are now alternatives to conventional plastic. Recent advances in technology have enabled scientists to make a plastic resin based on corn. This resin is called polylactic acid, or PLA and is nearly identical to conventional plastic. Most importantly, corn is easily grown and is a renewable resource and is completely biodegradable. If we were to replace even a third of conventional plastic with corn plastic, that would make a huge dent in our consumption of oil and help top reduce the size of our landfills.