Unleashing the Power of Collective Action: The Background

Written by the editors of PB | Published on July 17, 2023

A close up photo on the plastic packaging of PEZ by Sivan Roshianu
Expertly captured by photographer Sivan Roshianu ©, this captivating close-up showcases the intricate details of a PEZ candy dispenser's vibrant plastic packaging.

Background and the discovery of plastic

In the early 20th century, Leo Hendrik Baekeland, a chemist of Belgian origin, made a groundbreaking discovery by inventing Bakelite through a condensation reaction involving phenol and formaldehyde.

Bakelite, known as Polyoxybenzylmethyleneglycolanhydride, quickly gained fame due to its remarkable durability, excellent insulating properties, and heat resistance. These exceptional characteristics made Bakelite a sought-after material across numerous industries.

Building upon Baekeland’s groundbreaking achievement, the world of plastics experienced a remarkable surge of innovation and discovery.

Embarking on a relentless quest for new materials, scientists and engineers propelled the industry forward, ultimately introducing two transformative plastics: polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyethylene.

Polyvinyl chloride, with its exceptional versatility and durability, quickly found its place in various applications. From construction and plumbing to healthcare and packaging, PVC became a cornerstone of modern material technology, delivering unmatched performance and reliability.

Meanwhile, the advent of polyethylene introduced a new chapter in the plastics narrative. This resilient and adaptable thermoplastic opened up possibilities across diverse industries. With variations like high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and low-density polyethylene (LDPE), this family of plastics found application in everything from packaging and consumer goods to automotive and agricultural sectors, forever reshaping how we interacted with materials.

The Emergence of Environmental Awareness: Unveiling the Consequences

As these remarkable advancements unfolded, the world realized the transformative potential of plastics, simultaneously marveling at their myriad possibilities and grappling with the environmental consequences.

While these materials brought undeniable benefits, the specter of plastic waste began to cast its shadow, prompting a growing awareness of the need for responsible consumption and waste management.

In the mid-20th century, the first inklings of concern surrounding the pervasive presence of plastic in our world began to emerge. By the 1950s, astute observers started noticing a disturbing phenomenon: plastic waste accumulating in our environment. It was a foreboding sign of a growing issue that would demand our attention and action.

However, it wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that the dire environmental impact of plastic pollution came into sharp focus. Scientists and researchers diligently documented plastic’s detrimental effects on delicate ecosystems and vulnerable wildlife, especially those inhabiting our oceans. The alarming realization that plastic does not readily biodegrade and instead persists in the environment for centuries unleashed a wave of concern about its long-term consequences.

As this understanding deepened, a global awakening took place. Communities, organizations, and governments joined forces, recognizing the urgent need to address the escalating plastic pollution problem.

Momentum grew to find effective solutions, reduce plastic consumption, and promote sustainable alternatives that could mitigate the damage caused by our dependence on disposable plastics.

This collective effort to combat plastic pollution has since gained traction worldwide. Advocacy campaigns, legislative measures, and grassroots initiatives have all played a crucial role in raising awareness and effecting change.

The journey towards a more sustainable future continues as we strive to find innovative approaches to tackle plastic pollution, preserve our natural environments, and safeguard the well-being of future generations.