We’re partial to plastic at Polymer Solutions Incorporated, and not just because we work with myriad permutations of plastic on a daily basis. Nor do we favor plastic because some of our favorite toys — like Legos and portions of our Fourier transform instrument — are made with it. We’re really into plastic because it is simply a very cool, incredibly versatile material invented by humans.
The reasons why plastic is awesome are almost too numerous to count, but here are five that really resonate for us:
1. Plastic can — and does — save lives.
From medical devices that keep blood flowing, joints moving and hearts beating to impact-resistant vehicle parts and safer infant car seats, plastic saves lives every day. It’s durability, strength and moldability make plastic the material of choice for products designed to protect and improve human health.
2. It never needs to get out of the kitchen.
While it’s not indestructible (what is?), with the correct additives package plastic is good at resisting temperature fluctuations. And scientists have developed polymers that can withstand hundreds of degrees of heat — nearly 400 Celsius! — without melting into a puddle. Anyone who remembers metal playground equipment from childhood (slides in particular) can attest to the idea that plastics, hot sun and shorts are a happier combination.
3. Plastics, naturally!
We started off this blog talking about why plastic is the best manmade material ever, and all plastic is synthetic in nature (so far), but bioplastics are derived from natural, renewable sources like vegetable oils and corn starch. While not all bioplastics are biodegradable, manufacturing them is more eco-friendly since they’re not made from fossil fuels and emit less CO2.
4. It doesn’t have to end like this.
A lot of plastic isn’t biodegradable, and because of that polymers in general have taken a reputational hit. But many non-biodegradable plastics can be recycled and used in other ways. Like wood and metals, plastic doesn’t have to end up in a landfill. We can do better — and society is continuing to learn new ways to recycle, reuse and more responsibly manage plastic waste. Ultimately, that’s what science is all about — discovering new ways to make the world a better place!
5. It’s cosmic, man!
It’s been a few years since we blogged about scientists discovering propylene — a basic element of plastic food packaging and storage containers — on Saturn’s moon, Titan. Yet the discovery is still exciting. It was the first time propylene was discovered anywhere else in the universe other than earth, and the first time anyone found evidence that the universe can make propylene at least as well as we can!
Of course, plastic isn’t without its problems. We need to continue improving how we manufacture, use, recycle and dispose of plastic to minimize its impact on our environment. But the benefits of this wonder material make it well worth the investment of time, money and imagination!