It is commonly known that we need petrol for our cars, but the oil industry plays a far larger role in our everyday lives than many of us realize.
There is a major lack of awareness around how we benefit daily from petrochemicals. When we shampoo our hair, apply body lotion and cosmetics, use lunch boxes, watch TV, wear clothing, gym, wash dishes, take medicine and even in some instances – eat food, we are in fact using “petrochemical-based” products.
Petrochemicals are converted from their raw form (crude-oil) to what is found in consumer end-products. It is almost impossible to compile a list of all petrochemical-based products that we use. If you‘re curious, the best place to start would be to read the ingredients listed on the packaging of your personal hygiene, kitchen and food-based products. Some of these ingredients have recently raised health concerns, such as BPA found in plastic packaging.
Petrochemicals have played a massive role in the modern society we live in today. Despite the potentially harmful effects, petrochemicals have played a pivotal role in technological advancements. The economic growth of the petrochemical industry has been so rapid that environmental and health regulations fail to keep up. Petrochemical-based manufacturing processes are resource heavy and environmentally degrading. The petrochemical industry not only depletes non-renewable resources but is also based on a “linear economy” model which focuses on creating single-use disposable products. This has largely contributed to the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” where millions of plastic bottles are found in the ocean, contributing to microplastics which not only harms the earth but also our health.
Biotechnology has gained significant attention as a possible route towards decreasing the environmental burden of these production processes. The petrochemical industry is facing the responsibility of reshaping into a “circular economy” and sustainable model. However, scientists can only do so much. Demand and supply play a large role in which products are available. We can all make more informed choices surrounding the products we buy and how these products may have a devastating impact on not only your health, but the planet’s as well.
Contributor: Danielle Seeger
Bioprocess Engineer with strong background in biotechnology, biochemistry and genetics. Some interests include sustainable development, green tech & production practices, biomimicry and circular economy solutions.