Amidst the Corona Virus outbreak, BMC decided to ban the single-use plastics in Mumbai from May 1, 2020. The ban prohibited the use of plastic bags, disposable cups and plates, and bottles under a certain size.
Despite scary headlines of the use of Plastics, what exactly do we rely on today to help keep us safe, especially during COVID’19 and, to reduce our everyday risks? It’s nothing but – Plastics?
Among the many reasons, we increasingly rely on people and products dedicated to keeping us safe. Advance development over the last several decades allow us to undertake activities that would have seemed too risky just a century or so ago.
How are plastics protecting us?
More and more, we’re relying on new and rapidly evolving hi-tech materials: Plastics materials that we created over the past century, and mostly just over the past few decades.
That’s probably surprising to most people who typically don’t think about how we rely on plastics in this situation:
Let’s take a look…
- Face Masks: The material most commonly used to make them is Polypropylene. Polypropylene (PP) is considered to be the safest of all plastics, this is a plastic that is heat resistant. Because of its high heat tolerance, Polypropylene is unlikely to leach even when exposed to warm or hot water. Polypropylene plastics can be re-used safely and with hot beverages.
- Hand Gloves: Latex gloves are made of natural rubber, while Vinyl gloves are produced with raw synthetic materials. Mainly PVC – Poly Vinyl Chloride and Phthalates DINP plasticizers that makes plastics soft and pliable.
- Hand Sanitizer Bottles: These sanitizing bottles are itself made of plastics.
Along with this, from the moment we wake up (alarms clock) to the moment we prep for sleep (toothbrush). We do, in fact, rely continuously on countless products to help keep us safe – our cars, our homes, our food packaging/ supply, our sports equipment and so on…
- Cars: Plastic car components can absorb more crash energy than metal components. In addition, seat belts and air bags (tough nylon and polyester fabrics) have saved countless lives – can we even imagine making cars without them? Add lightweight plastic front and rear crumple zones. The growing use of lightweight yet strong carbon fiber-reinforced plastic car parts and more.
- Homes: Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors designed to alert us to unseen dangers.
- Child Safety locks for doors, drawers and cupboards to prevent little ones from exploring things they should not.
- GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupters) that trip when an electric circuit is overload and plastic outlet plugs to prevent toddlers from investigating those intriguing little holes in the wall.
- Furniture made with synthetic/ plastic fibers (nylon, polyester, etc.)
- Food: From farm to plate, our food is prone to countless contaminants. As one packaging organization asserts, “Packaging helps prevent food spoilage (and) ensure food quality and safety along the supply chain and at home.”
Sealed plastic containers and bags help preserve the flavor, texture and nutrients of food by locking out air and preventing the absorption of nasty odors. A walk down the refrigerated produce aisle at many grocery stores demonstrates the growing contribution of plastic packaging in providing fresh and safer food for many families.
- Sports: Helmets for biking, skiing/ snowboarding, x-sports, hockey, and other sports are made with an outer shell from tough plastics and a cushioning interior layer (typically polystyrene or polypropylene foam). Goggles and helmet shields typically are made from shatter-resistant polycarbonate (not glass). Other protective sports gear: Mouth guards, neck guards, gloves, elbow pads, shoulder pads, athletic protectors/ cups, padded shorts and shin guards.
Water sports and boating are made considerably safer by life jackets that feature contoured plastic foam panels and easy-to-use plastic zippers, straps and buckles for better fit / comfort.
- Work Space. Factory workers using heavy machinery rely on high-performance plastic fabric gloves to reduce risks such as punctures, burns, cuts, and abrasions.
- Safety goggles are predominately made with polycarbonate, the plastic also used to make bulletproof glass. And new plastic composites have become a material of choice for work boots: tough, strong, lightweight, helping keep workers feet and toes safer and more comfortable.
However, these same plastics are used to keeping us safe. The list goes on in multiple areas of our lives. Despite statewide ban, Mumbai still has miles to go before it can be plastic-free.