“There’s a great future in plastics,” Mr. McGuire said to recent-grad Benjamin Braddock at his graduation party in one of the most iconic films of the twentieth century, the Graduate. This scene captures more than just the mere parting words of some career advice the older generation tends to give young people at their graduation parties, it signals something more cultural—indeed, more industrial—that had been so prevailing at the time, and so worrisome now.
Over the last century and a half, humans have learned how to make plastics. With the arrival of World War II, there was a great expansion of the plastics industry in the United States. The plastics industry’s production has increased near exponentially since the 1950s. In 2013, 299 x 106 tons of plastic were produced throughout the world. There’s no wonder why: it’s inexpensive, lightweight, and versatile.
As scientists would come to learn in the 1960s and 70s, plastic have a tremendous impact on our environment. As we celebrate World Environment Day, let’s take a look at how plastic pollution has affected the environment:
Featured image credit: Assorted plastic bottles by mali maeder. Public Domain via Pexels.