We have heard much on the news lately that has demonized plastics but the versatile nature of these materials actually makes plastic products environmentally friendly in many ways.
Plastics can meet almost any requirements to meet those of designers and purchasers. They are lightweight, versatile, can be a wide range of colours and shapes, and are much more “sustainable” than you might expect. In fact, it is predominantly in the way we as consumers both use and dispose of plastics that is the real demon.
Consider the following points:
- The plastics industry only consumes 4% of the world’s oil production as feedstock. The production of the majority of plastic products takes less energy than the production of metals, glass and paper. This means that plastic products have an important role in saving and conserving energy and power.
- 105kg of plastics, rather than traditional materials in a car weighing 1,000kg, makes a fuel saving of 750 litres over a lifespan of 90,000 miles.
- Without plastics, packaging weight could increase by as much as 400%, production and energy costs could double and material wastage increase by 150%.
- Renewable energies rely on plastics. Consider objects such as pipes, solar panels, wind turbines and rotors.
- PVC-U double glazed windows and doors are essential for an energy efficient home. They have a minimum 35 years life and are easily maintained. The BRE’s Green Guide has given PVC-U windows an A rating.
- Durable and flexible plastic pipes prevent leakage of valuable water. 772 miles of London cracked Victorian water mains are being replaced by blue plastic pipes.
- Use of plastic bottles rather than alternatives leads to savings of up to 40% on distribution fuel costs and saves on transport pollution.
- Plastics do not conduct electricity so PVC is widely used to insulate wiring, while thermosets are used for switches, light fittings and handles.
To add to these features of plastic, it’s also a material that can be recycled up to six times. Reassuringly, in the UK, recycling numbers are increasing: Last year 42,000 tonnes of used PVC from UK construction uses were recycled, making it a European record.
For those plastic products that are not easily recycled there are already alternative more environmentally friendly plastic products that simply need a “legislative nudge” in the right direction or a “consumer demand” to gain acceptance and become the new industry norm. These include bio-degradable, an-aerobically digestible and water-soluble plastics.
With these positive features on the rise, we believe it is truly important to appreciate the benefits and uses of plastic materials.