Understanding Plastic: The Benefits
Updated: Mar 1
Part 2 of 4: THE BENEFITS.
Plastic has unique material characteristics, making it ideal in some situations. Not to mention, the evolution of plastic and its uses has been momentous for our technology and building sectors. It was invented in 1907, meaning we have been using, improving, and re-designing it for over a century! Some of the beneficial properties of plastic include:
Flexibility: As plastics are composed of many small molecules or parts, they are receptive to moulding and movement. For applications that require a durable yet flexible material, plastics offer the best of both. Some examples include:
Cars, airplanes, and other vehicles
Sporting gear like helmets and padding
Health + safety equipment
The flexibility of plastic also allows it to be used in applications that consist of complex designs and shapes that would otherwise be more labour and energy-intensive to create using materials like wood, metal, or a composite.
Lightweight: With plastic weighing between 50-80% less than average metals, and approximately 85% less than glass, it makes it a more appealing option for cargo and shipping applications. Did you know?
90% of the products used in your daily routine have been transported by ship or freight at some point in their lifecycle.
Lighter loads make for a more efficient journey in terms of speed and fuel consumed, which can have a huge impact for international voyages. Lessening a load's weight helps to reduce the environmental impact of shipping as well as the cost.
Chemical Resistance: Even with special coatings and chemical treatments used as prevention, it is in metal's nature to eventually rust. Plastic on the other hand, has extremely beneficial features in this regard as it does not corrode and is less likely to change when exposed to new environments.
Advancements in Innovation and Technology: Plastics have allowed our technology and innovation to grow and develop further. For example, they have become key components within the medical sector, in all areas of the field. They have allowed eyeglass frames and lenses to be lighter and more durable, they are pertinent components of modern prosthetics, and single-use plastics like gloves reduce cross contamination and the spread of illness at health and treatment facilities.
Plastics have also made a significant difference in improving design in sectors such as electronics, robotics and technology, infrastructure, and automotive applications. Its flexibility, lightweight, and chemical resistance proves useful in improving efficiencies and range of use.
Take your car for example. Did you know?
" Plastics account for approximately 50% of the volume of a typical vehicle, but only 10% of its weight. "
Without plastic, your vehicle would be unable to withstand harsh and changing weather conditions, it would experience rust quicker, it would have a less efficient fuel economy and you would not have seat-belts nor carseats.
Plastics have allowed us to improve existing technologies, achieve greater scientific success, and create new and emerging inventions. They have allowed us to create protective gear, safety equipment, and improve medical treatments. Plastics have the potential to continue advancing our societies in ways other materials cannot, and their continued development could lead to exciting new innovations.
Did you learn something new from this blog? Let us know and share with your friends!
Stay tuned for Part 3 of our Understanding Plastic series, where we will highlight the negative side of plastics like their associated waste, disposal, and more.
Information for this blog was sourced from the lecture notes and readings of Dr. Mohammad Arjmand, a Polymer Engineer and Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan. Additional information was sourced from Plastics Make it Possible and Freightened.