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High school sophomore takes top honors in SPE's Wonders of Plastics Essay Contest.

The winner of the 1994 SPE Wonders of Plastics Scholastic Essay Contest is Dana Rodgers, a sophomore at Pleasure Ridge Park High School, Louisville, Ky. Ms. Rodgers, who competed against students from more than a dozen states representing 20 school systems, was awarded first price for her essay entitled "Plastics: Monster or Miracle."

Judges from SPE's Public Interest Committee also recognized three runner-up students:

* John Christopher Anderson, 17, from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, Durham, N.C., for his essay "The Nature of Plastic";

* Angela Lea Nicholson Thundercloud, 13, from Beaver Island Community School, Beaver Island, Mich., for her essay "Plastics Greatly Benefit Our Health and Safety"; and

* Suzanne K. Volkman, 16, from Marine City High School, Marine City, Mich., for her essay "Paper or Plastic."

The text of Dana Rodgers's winning essay:

In this day and age of conflicting morals and attitudes, some things are generally agreed upon by all. One of these almost undisputed "facts" is that our environment is in trouble, mostly because of plastics, which will be here long after we have left this earth. Right?

We hear it everywhere. Plastics are the bad guys. Without plastic, the environment would probably be better off. The world might even be better off. Right?

That is what the media would like you to believe. But if the media trekked down to their nearest landfill, they would find out that plastics make up only 16.3% of solid waste by volume. They would see that the main "environmental villain" is paper, whose derivatives take up approximately 47.7% of the space available in landfills.

Even though most solid waste is paper, plastic is taking the rap for rapidly overflowing landfills. According to one estimate, a great majority of the 800 bills that have been introduced against solid waste have been plastic-packaging bans. Wouldn't it make a little more sense if people started paying more attention to all of this paper garbage? After all, most paper does not fully degrade in landfill conditions, either. That means that it will be around about as long as most plastics.

Therefore, plastic is not as major a threat to the environment as we formerly thought. The truth is that plastic's advantages far outweigh its drawbacks. Look around you. Since their discovery in the latter part of the 19th century, plastics have virtually taken over our world. Can you imagine living just one day without plastics? Before you answer, think about all the things that are made of plastic--plastic countertops and tables, toothbrushes, computers, cars, clothes, eyeglass frames and lenses, brushes, shampoo bottles, and millions of other things.

Without plastic, you would probably be very poorly off today. After all, without a car you would have to walk to work. You would be naked, and your hair would be dirty and uncombed. You probably would have been late, because most clocks are made of plastic, too. When you finally got to work, your plastic-topped desk would be gone, along with your computer.

To make a long story short, plastics make life much easier for everyone. They are among the most durable substances on earth. Besides being virtually unbreakable, they are fairly easy to manufacture and inexpensive to buy. They also help to replace wood and steel, which saves valuable resources. But plastics are not just used as a good replacement for other materials. Their unique properties make things possible that were not possible before they were invented.

Plastics help people, both on the inside and out. For instance, my dad has a plastic kneecap. He had to have his real kneecap replaced after a motorcycle accident. Without plastics, my dad would not be able to bend his leg. Plastics are used to replace many different body parts. Some amputees have arms and legs that are made of plastic. They are a big advantage over the wood prostheses because they are lighter and more durable than wood. Plastics can also be shaped to fit more closely to the body than wood, which helps to increase the amputee's comfort.

Plastic is not a dirty word! It is just the victim of an uneducated media and over-reacting public. In reality, plastic helps many people every day. Without plastic, our lives would not be as easy as they are. So, instead of being ashamed to use them, let's celebrate the miracle of modern plastics.
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Title Annotation:Dana Rodgers; Society of Plastics Engineers
Publication:Plastics Engineering
Date:Oct 1, 1994
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