The applications for plastics are essentially limitless! Plastics are found almost everywhere. While you may be aware of some of their uses, chances are that there are many, many more applications that you do not know of. A brief overview of the many uses for plastics is offered below.
The packaging industry is primarily responsible for the use of plastics. Clear low-density polyethylene plastic wrap coverings account for most of the plastic packaging materials, followed closely by high-density polyethylene plastic films used in trash bags and containers. Certain plastics have excellent impenetratable properties, acting as barriers to oxygen, water vapour, and other substances which are to be kept either in or out of containers.
The building industry is the second largest consumer of plastic products. In addition to using many of the packaging materials listed above, construction also requires high-density polyethylenes and polyvinyl chlorides for pipes and siding sheets. Plastics are diversely used as insulators, ranging from single wires to entire buildings. As well, roofing materials, door and window frames, mouldings, screws, and hardware all contain plastics.
A variety of plastics are used in the manufacture of automobiles, trucks, and even airplanes! Air-intake manifolds, fuel lines, brake linings, windshield wipers, tires, bumpers, speedometer gears, emission canisters, headlights, steering wheels, and fuel pumps all contain tough plastics. More flexible plastics are used for interior paneling, seats, and trim. Even the outer bodies of some cars are made of fiberglass-reinforced plastic.
The wires of most electronic devices are encased in some type of plastic. As well, plastics are used in the outer casings of telephones, lighting fixtures, electric mixer housings, fans, radio cabinets, coffee makers, computers, and clocks.
Around the House
It is perhaps under this heading that some of the most surprising uses for plastics are found. Did you know that bottles, shower heads, dishes, skylights, eye glasses, cameras, floor waxes, carpets, piano keys, switch cover plates, buttons, door knobs, papers, shoe heels, toothbrush handles, pen and pencil barrels, beads, toys, fisherperson's floats and tackle, cutlery handles, combs, washing machines, detergent dispensers, salad bowls, ash trays, croquet balls, water hose nozzels, football helmets, inks, clothing, rainwear, cellophane, wash tubs, luggage, costume jewlery, beverage cases, trash-can liners, produce bags, canteens, synthetic leather, refrigerator insulation, sponges, furniture cushioning, model airplane and car kits, place mats, envelope windows, ice buckets, egg cartons, shower curtains, and visors all contain at least some plastic? Well, did you?
To learn which types of plastics are used in each of the above products, and to find out EVEN MORE places where plastics are used, please visit our "Types of Plastics" page.