Plastic has become the most-used packing material in food and consumer durables, thanks to its malleability and durability. Plastic can be moulded into almost any shape and size, and with sufficient density to handle any content. However, plastic is a huge problem precisely because of its durability. Environmental concerns are mounting due to the time plastic takes to decompose and the way plastic refuse is affecting life in water and on land.
Food packaging should protect items from external factors such as dust, microbes and tampering. However, plastic packets or containers can lose shape, crush under weight or break and split easily during transportation. If the plastic material does not have the proper consistency, it will lack sufficient heat resistance and the food items can spoil. Plastic draws dust. And plastic packaging is not always airtight--it can allow gases and water vapour in and out, which will affect the freshness of the food item or easily contaminate it.
Plastic is used in packaging consumer durables because it is one of the cheapest choices. Plastic can be moulded into complex shapes and mass-produced; it lasts longer than many packaging materials. The concern is that unlike food packaging, plastic packaging of consumer durables has no alternate uses and is indiscriminately discarded. Due to the solid structure of most consumer-durable packaging, recycling also becomes less practical.
Plastic pollution has become a worldwide concern. Discarded plastic bags have been linked to major disasters. The flood in Mumbai, India, that killed almost 1,000 people was traced to plastic bags clogging storm drains. According to Greenpeace, the North Pacific Gyre--the epicentre of a giant circulating system of wind and currents--sucks in plastic pollution from Asia, the Pacific and North America and has become a floating garbage dump the size of Texas, choking and ensnaring marine wildlife.