The advantages of using plastics are that they are lightweight, water resistant, durable, strong, economical and resistant to corrosion and chemicals. Some disadvantages of using plastics are that they pollute the environment, pose a danger to wildlife, do not degrade quickly and pose difficulties during recycling.
Since plastics are lightweight and sturdy, they can be conveniently used to transport goods. Vehicles made of lightweight plastics are more fuel-efficient. Lightweight plastics also economize on fuel consumption during the manufacturing process, and are therefore inexpensive compared to metal or paper. Also, plastics lend themselves to shaping and can be designed to make products resistant to impacts.
Additionally, since plastics are corrosion- and chemical-resistant, they can be used in any climate and for storing chemicals such as ammonia and caustic materials. Food-grade plastics preserve the freshness and flavor of foods. Plastics can also prevent contamination, which makes them useful in medical settings.
However, plastics require up to 500 or 1000 years for degradation. As plastics pile up in landfills, toxic chemicals contained in them are released into the environment, thus polluting the planet. Also, when wildlife consume plastics, mistaking it for food, it harms their health. Plastic food containers are said to leach harmful chemicals such as bisphenol A and phthalates into food materials contained in them, which can cause health problems in humans.
Plastic is popularly used for small items such as toys and grocery or trash bags; both present a choking hazard. Governments have implemented rules for manufacturers to clearly label their plastic products to warn users of this potential risk.