Plastic: the Good, the Bad and the History

To kickstart Plastic Free July, let’s start by sharing the history of plastic, so you can understand how it’s evolved over time and fully comprehend the extent of the problem we face today. You’ll also see why Plastic Free July marks such an important moment in the year.

A brief history of plastic:

  • 1869 – 1900: Plastic was first invented in 1869 by John Wesley Hyatt (an inexperienced chemist) as an alternative for ivory!
  • 1901 – 1950: From the beginning of the 20th Century, following the invention of the first fully mass-produced synthetic plastic in 1907, and the onset of World War II, the production of plastic soared. 
  • 1951 – 1975: In the 1950s, plastic began to replace traditional materials on the merit that it was lighter, cheaper and more flexible – replacing steel in cars, wood in furniture, paper and glass in packaging. Single-use plastic was celebrated for its time-saving ability and was lauded as the future.
  • 1976 – 2020: As early as the 1960s and picking up momentum in the 1980s people began to notice plastic bags accumulating in the ocean. The late 2010s was a key turning point for the world, solidifying action for plastic pollution on the global agenda and the importance of searching for plastic alternatives. 

So where does this leave us?

The unsettling irony is that plastic was first advertised as the “saviour of the elephant and the tortoise” but no one could have foreseen the impacts it would have on our planet in later years. 

Plastic our grandparents disposed of to landfill still exists now and will do for lifetimes to come!

That’s why each week we’ll be focusing on practical ways you can approach Plastic Free July from one of the five Rs – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle. No matter where you are on your plastic journey – whether you’re fully committing to going plastic-free this month, or you’re looking for ways to cut down on single-use plastics and improve your recycling – we’ll give you a few everyday tips to change the way you think about and approach plastic.

Over the next month, we’ll be looking at the problem of plastic on a global scale and how this is being tackled in different countries including our own, profiling some amazing local plastic-free heroes and showcasing businesses who are killing it at upcycling, along with much more!

We’ll also be giving away two Zero Waste Boxes to one person and a business of their choice, very soon!

Stay tuned for next week, where we’ll be doing a deep-dive into the first of the five Rs – Refuse!

One thought on “Plastic: the Good, the Bad and the History

  1. We have certainly changed the way we shop, but I am a firm believer in efficient recycling. This is something that the United Kingdom really needs to take control of. Nothing that can be recycled should be exported for processing unless there is an absolute guarantee that it will processed correctly.
    Food production and shopping has certainly changed over the last 50 years. What most often springs to mind is buying pate in Sainsbury’s. We used to go to the deli counter and the pate would be cut out of a ceramic dish and packaged. The dishes could be purchased for use at home.


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