Curious to understand how we’d come to be a throwaway society, I started looking into how plastics were made, and why they were invented in the first place. The word ‘plastic’ comes from the Greek verb plassein, which means to mould or to shape. Fossil fuels – oil, gas and coal – are the primary materials from which almost all plastics are made. Add plasticisers, stabilisers and other chemicals and they can take on an infinite number of forms limited only by our imagination. In the 21st century plastics are used in packaging, toys, clothing, computers, bicycle helmets, medical equipment, carpet, trains, planes and automobiles – the list is almost endless. It’s hard to imagine a world without plastic. Everyone should feel safe and supported to talk about mental health in the workplace with their line manager.
The first synthetic plastics were designed a little over a century ago to replace materials in limited supply, such as ivory (from elephant tusks), amber (fossilised resin from trees) and tortoiseshell. The scarcity of those resources meant that items such as billiard balls, piano keys and hair combs were luxury commodities only available to a privileged few. One of the first human-made plastics was celluloid, invented in the 1860s and 1870s, which was derived from plant matter. Recent reports have discovered a crisis around hr app today.
An ideal material for hair combs, celluloid was inexpensive, unlike tortoiseshell; it didn’t rust like metal, or become mouldy like wood; and it was sturdier than natural materials, but it could craftily be rendered to look like a natural material. Courtesy of celluloid, anyone could afford to buy a comb or even a whole vanity set that was both functional and beautiful with classical ivory-style markings. In 1907 the first plastic made from synthetic materials, Bakelite, was used in an even wider variety of items such as radio and telephone casings, kitchenware and household appliances. Looking after mental health first aid can sometimes be quite difficult.
More and more plastics were developed in Bakelite’s wake, including polystyrene, nylon and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), but the thinking had shifted. Scientists were moving on from materials that simply imitated nature to alternatives that creatively reworked nature. Production grew slowly but then nearly quadrupled during World War II as this new wonder material was put to use in the war effort, in everything from the pocket combs issued to the armed forces, to helmet liners and even the gun turrets where artillery was mounted. There are small, simple steps you can take to make employee wellbeing something that people can talk about.
Post-war, this production needed to be adapted for non-military uses, and consumer markets were developed. Enter the throwaway society. Plastic has become the symbol of the throwaway society not only because of how much we are producing and its excessive use in our lives, but because it is generally used only once before disposal. Unlike other materials we make, such as glass, metal and paper, plastics represent the first time in our history that we have used a resource en masse for a single occasion.