For almost 100 years, manufacturing, technology, and even everyday people have benefitted from the invention of plastic. In fact, Bakelite was the very first plastic developed by a Belgian scientist in 1907. Since then, the plastic industry has taken off full-force.
Everything from toothbrushes to passenger cars is made with plastic nowadays. If you take a moment to look around you, either at the office or at home, you'll probably find at least two dozen plastic products within eyesight.
The convenience, reusability, and cost-effectiveness of this material make it a true leader in manufacturing and production. Let's explore two of the most commonly used plastic compounds we encounter every day:
When it comes to the plastics industry, polyethylene leads the pack. There are two widely used forms and polyethylene - high density and low density. Both forms are so popular because they are so easy to produce. Unlike other plastics, the compounds and chemical chains involved in creating polyethylene are relatively simple. It doesn't take complicated engineering or production to create and reuse PE plastics.
Some common HDPE products are milk jugs, water bottles, and plastic bags. Because HDPE is non-leaching and strong, it is ideal for food storage, carrying bags and containers, and more. For LDPE products, you'll find then better used as flexible parts and liners - like in juice containers or on seals on Tupperware containers.
Both forms of polyethylene are highly recyclable, and should be discarded as such. Since this is one of the most common plastics, there's plenty of it filling landfills. Everyone can do their part by recycling their water bottles and milk jugs so they can be turned into something else. Recycled PE can be turned into anything from lawn furniture to flooring!
Out of all plastic compounds, PVC is one of the most versatile. Although PVC's environmental impact has come into question in the past few years, its use has not declined. Better regulations have helped determine the right applications for vinyl compounds. Plastic made from vinyl compounds is extremely versatile and cost-effective, lending itself to a plethora of applications.
There are two main types of PVC - soft and hard. Soft PVC is used for products like shower curtains, shampoo bottles, medical tubes, and even "pleather" clothing. On the other hand, hard PVC is used for credit cards, window frames, and vinyl home siding.
Even though PVC is so versatile and inexpensive, it should be used with care. Due to its classification as carcinogen, it is not ideal for long-term food storage. It is important to note that it should never be burned, as the fumes from PVC are toxic. But used in the right application, PVC is a perfectly safe plastic.
Plastic has had such a major impact on our lives. It's helped to revolutionize the medical and technological industries, giving way to things that never seemed possible before. And, as more and more regulations are passed, plastic is being made safer and safer for long-term use. It's clear that a world without plastic would end up looking a whole lot different.