The Massive Industry of Plastic


Plastic is a relatively new construction material, with polymers pioneered in the early 1900s and plastic goods appearing in earnest around the 1950s or so. Since then, the plastic industry in the United States and elsewhere has grown aggressively and is still expanding, reaching new heights in value and production output. Today, plastics of all sorts join metal, wood, glass, and concrete as one of the major construction materials for good ranging from boat hulls to plastic bottles to electronics, and an American citizen may see hundreds of different plastics in a single day. Some items, in fact, are made entirely of plastic, and plastics are useful for the recent innovation of 3-D printing. Objects ranging from novelty toys to entire houses can be printed with 3-D plastics. Meanwhile, clear plastic jugs, custom plastic bottles, car parts, and more are made regularly from plastics, and plastics are also easily recycled into new items to reduce rates of pollution and boost resource efficiency.

Making Goods With Plastic

What can be made out of plastic? The simple answer is “almost anything.” This material cannot truly do everything, as plastic may fail in some applications that involve extremes of pressure, heat, or electricity conduction. All the same, many industries make use of plastic to some degree, and injection mold plastics are often used to make industrial parts for cars, boats, RVs, and related products. Liquid polymers are injected into molds (hence the name) and allowed to expand and harden and dry before removed. This allows a factory to make car parts or boat parts with the exact dimensions and shapes needed. And of course, many portable containers are made of plastic, and even some small pieces of furniture.

Shoppers at a large store such as Wal-Mart or Target may find many useful household items made of plastics, such as drawer units or storage containers and bins. No metal or glass or wicker is needed at all; such good are made of plastic, lightweight and tough, and leak-proof too. Trash cans and trash bags are also typically made of plastic, and can carry heavy trash and liquids without being compromised. Meanwhile, many containers for liquids are made of plastic, such as for soft drinks, antifreeze for cars, and even car oil. Many car owners purchase such liquids for their cars in thick, plastic jugs with handles and screw-on caps. Such plastic bodies will have large stickers on them with the brand name, bar code, directions for use, and in many cases, emergency directions in case of poisoning or misuse of the product. Most often, these plastic bottles and jugs for water or car liquids have taken the place of metal or glass containers, which are heavier and in the case of class, easier to break. Plastic water bottles in particular are quite common, and they may come in packs of 12 or 24 or even 48 of them, wrapped up in plastic sheets to keep everything together. Bottled water like this is often used for sporting events, a large picnic, or for emergency water supplies for disaster victims like in a hurricane-struck area.

Recycle That Plastic

Not only is plastic quite useful in its original form, but this material is known for being easy to recycle as well. Plastic does not biodegrade, and many Americans are concerned about how much plastic waste, especially shopping bags and bottles, end up in nature. There, plastic waste will at best mar the natural beauty and at worst choke, strangle, and starve wildlife on land in the oceans. Fortunately, the global “go green” initiative includes recycling plastic (among other materials), and many American citizens and companies alike routinely recycle as much plastic as they can. This material can be easily melted down and remade into something else, and recycling takes full advantage of that.

Recycling plastic not only reduces pollution, but it’s also resource-efficient and recycled plastic is highly useful. Often, plastic timbers are made, which are a similar size and shape (and function) of wood timbers. At a public park, a guest may find park benches made with plastic timbers, which resist water and vandalism better than wood timbers. Plastic can also be used to make kids’ playground equipment and those timbers can help frame flower gardens, a sort of landscaping.


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