Saturday 14 January 2023

Major Benefits of Plastics for the Environment And Society

Hello and welcome to a new blog post. Today we discuss briefly the major benefits of plastics for our environment. In this post I selected nine impact factors which are in my view important and the list of benefits of plastics not only for the environment is much longer. 

Major Benefits of Plastics for the Environment And Society

The following video shows a brief summary: 

Let us get started: 

1) Durability: polymer based pipes are designed to last for more than 100 years. Also they reduce the overall failure rate and ensure fresh water supply to many difficult reachable regions of the world. 

2) Water saver: as we mentioned water before, the production of a plastic bag consumes less than 4% of the water needed to make a paper bag.

3) Light weighting: lightweight plastic parts save around 3,000 liters of fuel over the lifetime of an average car.

4) Food waste prevention: plastics packaging increases the shelf life. In the case of bananas, wrapping them in a modified atmosphere bag extends their shelf-life by 2 to 3 days.

5) Product protection: plastics packaging helps to reduce the products which are sold loose. It has been found that this  in-store waste in some cases leads to losses of 20%.

6) Resourceful in production: producing plastics uses only 4% of the world's oil production. The remaining 96% are used for transport, energy, heat or are burnt.

7) Recyclability: thermoplastics can be recycled however it is not always technically or economically possible. In general, recycling one tonne of plastic bottles saves 1.5 tonnes of Carbon emission.

8) Reduction of CO2 emissions: it is shown by several studies that plastics reduce CO2 emissions massively and fossil fuel use massively.

9) Safety: chemicals and additives  in plastics are strictly regulated, tested for decades. In most cases they are only present in parts per million amounts.

Furthermore, following characteristics ensuring that polymers are a highly competitive class of materials and will lead to additional growth: 

10) Creating complex shapes by using moulding techniques: using injection moulding, thermoplastics, rubbers, and thermosets can be formed into complex 3D shapes. The amount of parts can be reduced by integrating functions too. 

11) Chemical resistance and biological inertness: plastic packaging is used to safely use chemicals such as bleach, lubricant oils, solvents, and acids. Using plastics for food packaging and medical applications is enables due to the biological internets of polymers. 

12) Electrical and thermal insulators: electrical hardware is safe to use since plastic due not conduct electricity (by adding certain fillers they can be made conductive). The low thermal conductivity of polymers is used in foams for isolation of housing  

Altogether we can state that plastics are part of our solution and are not the problem. 

I published already several posts on how polymer impacting the environment in a positive way:

Turning thermoplastics carbon neutral 

Global warming potential vs thermal properties of thermoplastics

Sustainability in plastics industry

Eco profiles of polymer resins

Thanks for reading and #findoutaboutplastics


Herwig Juster

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[3] E. G. Hertwich, Increased carbon footprint of materials production driven by rise in investments, Nature Geoscience, 14, pp 151-155 2021

[4] A. Andrady - Plastics and Environmental Sustainability

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