The invention of plastic served a pressing environmental problem. Before plastic, ivory, tortoiseshell and other animal products, along with various woods, were used to make everyday products and this was not sustainable.
In 1909 Belgium chemist Leo Baekeland created the first entirely synthetic plastic—Bakelite. Lightweight, durable, resistant to heat and non-conductive, it could be moulded into nearly any shape. So it was no surprise manufacturers realised its potential and it began being used for everything from jewellery to kitchenware, clocks to electrical fittings.
Bakelite ushered in an era of attractive, affordable and convenient consumable goods. By the 1960s plastic had gone beyond being a product used to make durable goods to being used for packaging. Now plastic is so pervasive in our world it is hard to escape!
Every piece of plastic ever made still remains somewhere, in some form, in the environment. Scientific America states that in the last half of the twentieth century over one billion tonnes of plastic was produced. Double this again was produced in just the first decade of this century. It is clear plastic has its place and can be very useful, but our excessive use needs to stop and the first place to start is with unnecessary single-use plastic.
The top four single-use plastics—plastic bags, water bottles, takeaway coffee cups and straws—are also possibly the easiest to stop using. Plastic Free July is an initiative that began in Perth in 2011 and challenges you to refuse single-use plastic in July.
On the road to decarbonisation, sustainable supply chains are a crucial area with vast room for improvement. There were 131 billion parcels shipped worldwide in 2020 — a figure that is predicted to double in the next five years. Asia represents a huge market for...