A Modern Society Without Plastics? Not So Fast Writes the New York Times

A recent article in the New York Times by A.J. Jacobs highlights just how prevalent plastics are in our daily lives, and how important they are as a building block to our modern society. Jacobs’ piece details how he approached a 24-hour experiment with the goal of going without using, or even touching, plastic. He notes, “Since its invention more than a century ago, plastic has crept into every aspect of our lives. It’s hard to go even a few minutes without touching this durable, lightweight, wildly versatile substance.”

Just how ubiquitous is plastic to us all? Jacobs violated his experiment within just ten seconds. Laying his feet on the carpet represented his first challenge, as it is made of nylon, a type of plastic. From there, it did not get any easier for him; he had to store his iPhone away for the day and ask his wife to open doors for him that had a plastic coating. His second infringement came shortly after that—using the toilet. Barely into the day, the reader begins to realize this is an almost impossible task in today’s day and age.

Plastics are in almost everything. Jacobs had to change his habits in every facet of his life to avoid using or touching them during his experiment. From changing the types of clothes he wore or not being able to pay for goods with credit cards, to avoiding the usual kitchen appliances he used, Jacobs fought an uphill battle. He even began writing the first draft of this article with a plastic free pencil by candlelight. By the end of the day, Jacobs had made 164 violations.

Plastic products are derived from natural gas, a resource abundant to the U.S. that provides a cheaper and cleaner alternative energy source to traditional fossil fuels. Ensuring we have a robust energy sector is critical to keeping our society both powered and functioning – all while improving the human condition. However, the current administration, members of Congress, and well-funded special interest groups have placed both the natural gas and plastics industry in their crosshairs. By unleashing regulatory arbitrage, the Biden administration has stymied the growth of production and transportation of the sector. 

Inevitably, it will be outsourced to foreign countries if the U.S. refuses to keep those jobs at home – to places like China. If we do not continue to produce plastics, under our own regulations, foreign countries will seize a larger market share and produce the same products in a much more hazardous way.

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