"I just want to say one word to you, just one word: plastics."
-Calder Willingham, The Graduate
The creation of plastics in the 1860s revolutionized product manufacturing throughout the world. In the middle of the 19th century, scientists were looking for an inexpensive synthetic substance that could be used to replace natural materials which were expensive and difficult to procure. For example, ivory was used in many goods - utensils, fans, piano keys, and so forth. Ivory was attractive and comfortable to the touch, but it was becoming very expensive as the animal populations were depleted.
A plastic-like substance called "parkesine" was created in England in 1862, but the material proved unsatisfactory; it became very brittle in a short period of time. In 1863 an American inventor named John Hyatt discovered a way to improve the flexibility and longevity of parkesine; he called his new product "celluloid." Celluloid first gained widespread use as a material for making shirt cuffs and collars but it soon spread into other areas, including as a material for making movie and photographic film.
Over time, more advanced plastics were created these would see use as everything from fabric to eyeglass lenses to artificial hearts. In fact the modern world is largely built on plastic. This too has a price: plastic's very durability makes it increasingly difficult to dispose of without damaging the world's fragile ecostructure.