While there is much clamour against the use of single-use plastic food containers and utensils, most people aren't quite aware of the benefits that it brings.
For certain, they may have adverse effects on the environment without proper discarding. But if they are handled and disposed of properly, you'll find that they are also just as sustainable as biodegradable ones.
Let us help you better understand the good side of single-use plastics as we unpack the unknown benefits about them.
The role of plastics in food safety
Some of the materials that are used in making plastic food boxes, cups, and utensils are designed to be only used once or at most for a short period of time. These plastics are often made to improve food safety, quality and sanitation and to simultaneously reduce negative environmental tolls.
Given the amount of information that is fed to the masses regarding the ill effects of plastics, it's particularly challenging for most people to justify its utilisation. But the very food that you either serve on your table or order from the restaurant around the block has, in one way or another, benefitted from plastics at certain points in the supply chain – be it from the initial transportation of key ingredients from the farm to the kitchen, packaging at the grocery store, or from the container that restaurants use to maintain the quality of your takeout.
Without plastics, there is no protective layer that will protect the food items from the elements while being transported or handled, which subsequently compromises not just its quality, but also its safety. For example, most restaurants turn to plastics food boxes instead of the ones made out of paper because the former is more resistant to liquids and more capable of keeping food fresh for a longer period of time. Needless to say, consuming food that is no longer fresh can cause serious problems that would require a trip to the hospital.
Sustainability of plastics
It is common knowledge that plastics can be detrimental to the environment if not disposed properly or produced with eco-friendly materials. But if you look at its manufacturing process, as well as how it should be disposed of, plastics aren't as harmful as you might think.
For starters, not a lot of people are aware that the environmental cost of using plastics is approximately four times times less when compared to alternative materials. This is because the manufacturing process of plastic packagings use energy of up to 80% less and emits 130% less GHGs or greenhouse gases. As for sustainability, modern technological advancements have made it possible to convert single-use plastics into energy so that they can be re-utilised instead of ending up in landfills.
When plastics are produced, they are then used to serve their intended purpose which would include keeping food fresh and sanitised. After which, consumers like you can most definitely repurpose them through various recycling ideas you can find on the internet. If not, garbage collectors have three ways they can reuse plastic waste; to begin, there's mechanical recycling which takes used plastics and turns them into useful products such as a take away box. Then, there's also chemical recycling which is a process that turns plastic waste into raw material that is going to be used in the reproduction of plastics. Last but most certainly not the least is to use conversion technologies which converts plastics into either fuel or energy.
Plastics can indeed take a very long time to decompose naturally, which is why there is a constant movement against its utilisation. But thanks to modern innovation, plastics can be just as sustainable as biodegradable materials such as paper.