Why is plastic useful

Plastic can be useful#5 Good Plastic, bad plastic

Sometimes it doesn't work without plastic. In medicine, for example, plastics are important in order to be able to work sterile. In the fifth episode of her podcast "Dangerously Practical", Kerstin Ruskowski looks at where plastic makes sense and where it doesn't.

In Germany, thanks to the deposit system, 95 percent of PET bottles are returned. However, the recycling rate is nowhere near as high as it could be. According to the nature conservation association NABU, around every second PET bottle is recycled in Germany, the rest is mainly exported to Asia. In general, the recycling rate for glass, paper and metals is much higher than for plastic.

Plastic that is used only once and then has to be melted down and recycled is not sustainable. Plastic that is used multiple times can also be useful, for example with new technologies such as electromobility.

"Megatrends such as lightweight construction or electromobility, or the making of food and also mobility in the broadest sense, all of this would be unthinkable without plastics."
Hans-Josef Endres, professor at the Institute for Plastics and Circulation Technology at the University of Hanover

Plastic often contributes to sustainability. For example, plastics can be used to seal windows and doors so that we have to heat less.

Plastics help save human lives in hospitals. From the sterile disposable syringe to the bone screw. That is why Katharina Landfester, director at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz, thinks that plastic cannot be categorized as good or bad. And Rainer Dahlmann from RWTH Aachen University doubts that all plastics can be abolished from now on.

"The question is what happens when we say: We'll take the plastic out of there. It is extremely unlikely that we will immediately get a system that is ecologically and economically more sensible."
Rainer Dahlmann, professor at the Institute for Plastics Processing in Industry and Craft at RWTH Aachen University

However, continuing as before does not seem to be the solution. The plastic atlas 2019, which the BUND Nature Conservation Association published together with the Heinrich Böll Foundation, states that the production of plastics will have generated around 56 gigatons of CO2 by 2050.

In the next and last episode, Kerstin Ruskowski deals with how we can deal with the topic of plastic differently and perhaps even better in the future.