The Future of Plastics

by Todd McDonald on August 29, 2012

How many plastic based products do you use on average in a day? Chances are your estimate is going to be significantly lower than the actual number.

Plastic has become so ingrained in the modern world that we hardly notice its presence anymore. The wires that bring electricity to your computer are plastic wrapped. The gas you put in your car is stored in a plastic tank. Life-saving fluids are distributed in the hospital through plastic tubing that can be attached to the liquid’s plastic storage bag.

It’s astonishing how often the average person interacts with plastics in a day but doesn’t think twice about their relationship with the material. From credit cards to mom’s Tupperware, plastics are everywhere. But what would happen if suddenly they weren’t? In her recent Plastics Today article, Author Imagines a World Without Plastic, Heather Caliendo describes Scott Fotheringham’s new novel, The Rest is Silence inspired by that hypothetical scenario.

As a PhD of microbiology and genetics at Cornell, Fotheringham wanted to explore a world in which a plastic-eating bacterium ravages the world as we know it. His protagonist has moved away from civilized life to remote Novia Scotia, but through his eyes we see the meccas of civilization, such as New York, destroyed by the proliferation of this blight.

In an interview with Claiendo, Fotheringham noted,  “Plastic, in many ways, allows us to sustain our population of seven billion. It is necessary for world-wide transportation of food and materials; for medical equipment; for computers. It is the last item that would ruin us. Everything we do now is dependent on computers, from the work we do writing for magazines and blogs, to nuclear-generating stations, to driving our cars.”

At TEQ, we couldn’t agree more with Fotheringham’s well-researched conclusion. Plastics have become a seamlessly integrated part of our everyday lives, and clearly essential to our line of work. Whether we’re creating packaging for Sony Playstation controllers or a sterile barrier system for Thoratec’s HeartMate medical device, plastics are at the heart of everything we do. Without it, we would be hard pressed to find such a flexible and versatile substitute.

Thankfully Fotheringham’s novel is a work of fiction. But if we’re going to be banking on imagined visions of the future, we’d rather go with Mr. McGuire’s from the Graduate: “There’s a great future in plastics.”

What plastic innovations would you be hard pressed to live without if Fotheringham’s apocalyptic vision were to occur?

 

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