CEO: Plastic Is Not Going Away

It’s Time to Promote a Circular Economy

Plastic has been around for more than a century and is one of the most vilified materials worldwide. Why? Plastic is used for everything from industrial packaging to consumer goods to single-use masks—all because plastic is one of the strongest and most durable materials in the world. Consumers and the packaging industry abuse plastic since it is inexpensive, easy to produce, and even easier to distribute. One only needs to know how to harness its features for applications where they are required.

In the medical field, plastics can be used for a plethora of medicines and devices. Prosthetics, engineered tissues, and microneedle patches for drug delivery are all good examples highlighting the diversity of polymers use-cases. The use of single-use plastics in medicine is extremely beneficial because sterilizing used equipment is very energy-consuming.

Plastics provide solutions for water sustainability, from the plastic pipes used in irrigation, reservoirs, and greenhouses to bottles and filters that provide clean drinking water. The polymers are utilized in portable purification systems to help people worldwide obtain clean drinking water and water for agricultural purposes where they may not have had access before.

Unfortunately, the increased use of plastic and improper waste treatment have led to environmental pollution. We see plastic in our oceans, our sewers, and around our neighborhoods. Plastics are littered throughout cities worldwide, and the plastic pollution crisis is getting worse.

The truth is, plastic is not the problem. The problem is that we are discarding it so early in its life cycle. Instead of thinking of one necessary use for the polymers, innovators need to think about the entire life cycle of these materials. The usual methods of discarding plastic, such as burning and discarding plastic in landfills, will soon become unsustainable diminishing land resources that could be utilized for other applications.

Recycling is part of the solution. However, the volatility of the price of oil can directly affect the economic motivation to use recycled plastics. When crude oil costs less, the cost to make “virgin” plastic and plastic resin decrease, tempting manufacturers to use new materials. The premium paid for recycled material becomes a higher cost to a converter. Recycled plastic producers need that premium to cover higher expenses for collection, sorting, and recycling. Getting consumers and businesses to accurately sort plastics into the correct recycling bins is also an ongoing challenge.

Instead of trying to rid the world of all plastic, consumers and producers need to rethink their approach by exploring and promoting a more circular economy. The industry needs to emphasize to the public plastic’s positive attributes. For instance, not only are plastics versatile and cost-effective, but they also require less energy to produce than alternatives. There is a myth that a plastic bag from the grocery store is more harmful than reusable bags, but that’s not true. A Danish study revealed that an organic cotton bag must be used 20,000 times to have the same environmental footprint as the plastic bag that only is reused once.

Instead of trying to rid the world of all

plastic, consumers and producers need to

rethink their approach by exploring and

promoting a more circular economy.

Instead of trying to find alternatives or doing nothing, it’s time to promote a circular economy. So far, more than 500 businesses, organizations, and governments have signed the U.S. Plastics Pact—an endeavor to help unify companies and consumers “to rethink the way we design, use, and reuse plastics to create a path forward to realize a circular economy for plastic in the United States.” The effort is organized by The Recycling Partnership and the World Wildlife Fund and was launched as part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global Plastics Pact network. This initiative aims to create a circular economy for plastic by 2025, so it never becomes waste.

We cannot move backward—the use of plastics cannot be stopped. It’s time to rethink our disposal tactics, and we have the technology to do so. Our quality of life will shift. Instead of cutting out plastic, we all need to encourage the study and implementation of plastics recycling to stop the pollution without giving up plastic.  

Yanir Aharonson, CEO of Polysack Flexible Packaging Inc. (, is an entrepreneur with 20 years of experience managing technology-based start-ups and established companies. He holds a B.S. in computer science and an M.A. in economics and business from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.