Plastic seems to be used in everything these days. Packaging, toys, car parts and tons of other products use it. But here are some facts you may not know about this common material.
1. Ethical Plastic
Plastics are so ubiquitous in the modern world it would be tough to make do without them. However, there are steps being taken to start using plastic more ethically and to avoid damaging the environment with plastic waste and pollution. Many companies are trying to develop and market products like reusable compostable or recyclable plastic packaging. There are also researchers working to develop bioplastics, made from plants instead of from fossil fuels. And there are things you can do in your everyday life to help out. If you can avoid single-use plastic altogether, do it. If not, try to find products that use common plastic polymers as these are more likely recyclable than packaging made from a more obscure plastic material.
The materials we know as plastics are synthetic polymers. A polymer is a chemical compound made of a long string of molecules. These compounds look like chains and are very strong and pliable because of this structure. One natural polymer you may be familiar with is cellulose – a material in plant cell walls that gives plants some strength and flexibility. Synthetic polymers mimic the flexibility and strength of natural polymers, which is why they’re called plastics since plastic also means something is pliable.
3. Automotive Industry Use
The common conception of a car is basically a big metal vehicle. However, it’s becoming more and more common to manufacture auto parts with plastic. It’s cheaper to produce and can be more durable than metal in two key ways. Polycarbonate plastic is resistant to damage from impacts and Polyvinyl Chloride is flame resistant. Polypropylene is both impact and flame resistant and very economical. In many cases, plastic and materials like rubber are produced by the same companies, something the Patrick James Trico Group LLC does. The automotive industry takes advantage of this economic advantage to source several different materials from fewer suppliers, which can make plastic an economical option.
You may be wondering why does plastic take so long to decompose anyway? The short answer is because plastics are inorganic products. Organic matter like wood and food is easily broken down by bacteria, but only certain species of bacteria are capable of causing plastic to biodegrade. Basically, the strength of plastics, their durability, becomes their downfall once they’re thrown away. They’re made to last so they will. Some researchers are working on implementing a faster decomposition process called photodegradation. This method is based on observations of plastic pollution in the ocean decomposing after as short a timespan as a year. The scientists aimed UV rays at plastic material and discovered these rays break synthetic polymer bonds, decomposing the plastic.
Plastic is everywhere. It’s important to take steps to use it ethically and to understand where it comes from and how it’s used.