Essay Sample on Plastic Usage as a Social Problem

Published: 2023-02-14
Essay Sample on Plastic Usage as a Social Problem
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Problem solving Ecology Chemistry Pollution
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1476 words
13 min read

There is more plastic generated every day in the form of trash that is clogging waterways, littering terrestrial and aquatic habitats, and generally leading to adverse health problems to both humans and animals. This problem arises from the fact that plastic is used widely, yet little of the waste plastic is recycled. The hazardous nature of plastic arises from the fact that it is non-biodegradable and contains toxic components such as Bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical component that is known to upset the normal functioning of hormones (Freudenrich, 2007). Due to the harmful effects, there has been an outcry for the abolishment of plastic, especially from products that come into contact with drinks and food with particular emphasis on children's toys.

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Plastics were first developed in 1907, and manufacturers have been improving its composition by using polymers that are molecules of long chains. At first, the polymers were extracted from cellulose a component of the plant cell wall, but development in the plastic industry has led to the use of synthetic polymers (Freudenrich, 2007). The synthetic polymer is extracted from fossil fuels as well as petroleum. The properties that have made this product more desirable consist of the length of the chains of molecules compared to the length of the chains extracted from cellulose. The longer molecular chains from synthetic material have made the polymers stronger, flexible, and lighter in weight.

Discussions and Definitions

Chaos Theory

The theory examines particular systems that are complex from a mathematical point of view. The theory postulates that a minor alteration could lead to an entirely changed behavior of the system. From this theory, it is hard to speculate accurately on aspects like the weather as even trivial errors or variations could make the speculation untrue (Watts, 2017). An example is the effect of the butterfly whereby the flapping of their wings in the great Amazon forest could result in rainfall in the pacific. And from this example is derived the "butterfly effect." This is to say that, even supercomputers cannot predict changes accurately in the weather patterns as even a minor alteration of wind patterns could alter the weather pattern.

Conflict Theory

In this perspective, conflict is part of social life. The theory posits that the distribution of power, as well as the magnitude and direction of change in social life, is influenced to a greater extent by conflict within the same society. This perspective was proposed by Karl Max, who believed that the conflicts between the various classes in the society were the cause for change (Hogg, 2016). Through the theory, Karl Max was of the opinion that it is because of the tension between the bourgeois and the proletariats that the middle class was formed. Therefore, this theory advocates for competition within different factions of society and not their cooperation.

Analysis of Plastic Usage

Analysis using the Chaos Theory

The production and consequent use of plastic material can be defined as a system as it touches so many aspects that are related to the human and animals equally. Put plastic use is applicable in nearly all areas of daily life because of its versatility. In the construction industry, plastic is a desirable material as it durable, has great versatility, is cost-effective, corrosion-resistant, and has low maintenance (Spierling et al., 2018). The material has been used extensively in the applications of electronics and electrical appliances. Plastic has also been used to cut down the cost of transportation by reducing the weight of the transportation vessels, which impacts on low fuel consumption. In the packaging industry, the material has proven to be extremely cost-effective, durable, lightweight, flexible, and versatile, making it the most desirable packaging material.

The chaos in the use of plastic arises from the debris being found all over from Antarctica to Artic. The waste clogs, litters, and piles up even in unexpected areas such as upon the mountains. To make matters worse, runoff directs the trash to the water bodies affecting and killing aquatic life. The trash is not only responsible for the loss of aquatic life but also birds, humans, and terrestrial animals (Spierling et al., 2018). Surprisingly enough, the microelements of plastic have been consumed by microorganisms, such as zooplankton affecting the food web in the aquatic ecosystem. Thus, many countries are contemplating the ban on plastic usage while some have succeeded in the ban.

The main debate is aroused from the fact that the waste derived from plastic is in tons and little can be done to it as it is non-biodegradable making it pile year after year. As much as nations are contemplating the ban of the material, a slight change could alter the perspective of the use of the material, which is considered a health risk for many (Spierling et al., 2018). In reality, minor variations at the start of this chaotic process could lead to huge alterations with time. Therefore, restarting the process can barely begin at the same point as the change in the starting position in the development of plastic could be insignificant. Thus, the sensitive dependence on the initial states where a minor alteration in one situation of a deterministic nonlinear organization can lead to major variations in a later situation.

Analysis Using the Conflict Theory

The perspective that examines conflicts within society through the thesis and antithesis point of view can be applied in the conflict on the use of plastic material. The thesis, which in this case, is held by the few manufacturers of plastic and plastic products while the antithesis, is held by the majority of the society (Spierling et al., 2018). The thesis holds that plastic is very economical and thus, cost-effective in a number of ways that enables the manufacturers to gain massive profits. They can be compared to the bourgeois in Karl Max's example while the majority of the society can be compared to the proletariats who are complaining about the effects of plastic which is the antithesis.

Therefore, through the conflict between the manufacturers and the society, the outcome was the recycling of plastic waste, which is the synthesis of the two conflicting sides. But, there is some plastic which is non-recyclable while the vast majority that is recyclable does not reach the recycling plants (Pivnenko et al., 2016). According to the theory, new conflicts arise from the synthesis of the thesis and antithesis as a society cannot completely exist in harmony but always in conflict.

Critique of Human Behavior

Human behavior can be viewed from two perspectives in this social problem. One of the perspectives is from the benefits derived from the use of plastics which reduces the general cost of livelihood and earns massive profit to the manufacturers who advocate for recycling of plastic waste (Pivnenko et al., 2016). The second view is from the angle of the harm derived from the use of the materials. This is the view held by the vast majority who are concerned with the health of the masses and environmental management and are aligned to the ban on the use of plastic products. Therefore, for success in the elimination of the toxicity in plastic products, there is a need to push for changes in the use of plastic. Thus, changes, especially in the technological arena, are highly welcome either through the use of material that is less toxic and harmful to the environment.

Social Worker's Point of View

As a future social worker, the social problem was attractive because banning alone of the use of plastic products cannot eliminate the mountains of trash that has accumulated over the years. Conversely, recycling of the accumulated waste cannot ensure a safe environment as the rate of disposal exceeds the rate of recycling (Pivnenko et al., 2016). Therefore, as a social worker, the problem can be tackled by advocating for the ban of the use of the material while initiating recycling programs.


When the recycling programs are initiated at the community level, the accumulated waste can be reduced significantly while at the same time, the communities can derive income from the process. The ban, on the other hand, would prevent the accumulation of waste in the environment and according to the two theories push for a change that will bring synthesis to the conflict or change in the use of plastic.


Freudenrich, C. (2007, December 14). How Plastics Work. Retrieved September 13, 2019, from

Hogg, M. A. (2016). Social identity theory. Understanding peace and conflict through social identity theory (pp. 3-17). New York: Springer, Cham.

Pivnenko, K., Eriksen, M. K., Martin-Fernandez, J. A., Eriksson, E., & Astrup, T. F. (2016). Recycling of plastic waste: the presence of phthalates in plastics from households and industry. Waste management, 54, 44-52.

Spierling, S., Knupffer, E., Behnsen, H., Mudersbach, M., Krieg, H., Springer, S., ... & Endres, H. J. (2018). Bio-based plastics-a review of environmental, social, and economic impact assessments. Journal of cleaner production, 185, 476-491.

Watts, F. (2017). Theology and psychology. New York: Routledge.

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