The Uses of Plastics
Whether you are
aware of it or not, plastics play an important part in your life. Plastics'
versatility allow it to be used in everything from car parts to doll
parts, from soft drink bottles to the refrigerators they are stored
in. From the car you drive to work in to the television you watch when
you get home, plastics help make your life easier and better. So how
is it that plastics have become so widely used? How did plastics become
the material of choice for so many varied applications?
The simple answer
is that plastics are the material that can provide the things consumers
want and need. Plastics have the unique capability to be manufactured
to meet very specific functional needs for consumers. So maybe there's
another question that's relevant: What do I want? Regardless of how
you answer this question, plastics can probably satisfy your needs.
If a product is
made of plastic, there's a reason. And chances are the reason has everything
to do with helping you, the consumer, get what you want: Health. Safety.
Performance. Value. Plastics help make these things possible.
Just consider the
changes we've seen in the grocery store in recent years. Plastic wrap
helps keep meat fresh while protecting it from the poking and prodding
fingers of your fellow shoppers. Plastic bottles mean you can actually
lift an economy-size bottle of juice. And should you accidentally drop
that bottle, it's shatter-resistant. In each case, plastics help make
your life easier, healthier and safer.
Vs. Dent-Resistant Body Panel
Plastics also help
you get maximum value from some of the big-ticket items you buy. Plastics
help make portable phones and computers that really are portable. They
help make major appliances - such as refrigerators or dishwashers -
resist corrosion, last longer and operate more efficiently. Plastic
car fenders and body panels resist dings, so you can cruise the
grocery store parking lot with confidence.
-- such as heat-sealed plastic pouches and wraps -- helps keep food
fresh and free of contamination. That means the resources that went
into producing the food aren't wasted. It's the same thing once you
get the food home -- plastic wraps and resealable containers keep your
leftovers protected. In fact, packaging experts have estimated that
each pound of plastic packaging can reduce food waste by up to 1.7 pounds.
Plastics can also
help you bring home more product with less packaging. For example, just
2 pounds of plastic can deliver 1,000 ounces -- roughly 8 gallons --
of a beverage such as juice, soda or water. You'd need 3 pounds of aluminum
to bring home the same amount, 8 pounds of steel or 27 pounds of glass.
Not only do plastic bags require less total energy to produce than paper
bags, they conserve fuel in shipping. Plastics make packaging more efficient,
which ultimately conserves resources.
are always working to do even more with less material. Since 1977, the
2-liter plastic soft drink bottle has gone from weighing 68 grams to
just 51 grams today, representing a 25 percent reduction per bottle.
That saves more than 206 million pounds of packaging each year. The
1-gallon plastic milk jug has undergone an even greater reduction, weighing
30 percent less than what it did 20 years ago. How many of us can say
Doing more with
less helps conserve resources in another way. It helps save energy.
In fact, plastics can play a significant role in energy conservation.
Just look at the decision you're asked to make at the grocery store
check-out: "Paper or plastic?"
Not only do plastic
bags require less total energy to produce than paper bags, they conserve
fuel in shipping. It takes seven trucks to carry the same number of
paper bags as fits in one truckload of plastic bags.
Plastics in Home
Plastics also help
to conserve energy in your home. Vinyl siding and windows help cut energy
consumption and lower your heating and cooling bills. Furthermore, the
U.S. Department of Energy estimates that use of plastic foam insulation
in homes and buildings each year will ultimately save close to 60 million
barrels of oil versus other kinds of insulation.
The same principles
apply in appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners. Plastic
parts and insulation have helped to improve their energy efficiency
by 30 to 50 percent since the early 1970s. Again, this energy savings
helps reduce your electric and cooling bills. And appliances run more
quietly than earlier designs that used other materials.
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