When considering the ecological and social implications of using polymers, it is likely that the polymer is non-renewable. Some polymers are plant-based, but most are derived from crude oil, which cannot be grown and is a finite resource - there is only a certain amount within the Earth’s crust. As a tremendous amount of energy is used to convert crude oil to a polymer, it is important to consider other materials or to reuse plastics already available.
Whenever environmental impact is to be reduced, ‘the 6 Rs’ can be addressed to ensure an in-depth analysis has been done. The 6 Rs can be considered by the designer, the manufacturer and the consumer to reduce that negative impact on the environment.
The term ‘the 6 Rs’ can be applied to the design of new products or when a product is finished with, used up or no longer wanted. Here are some questions to prompt 6 Rs thinking: