We all need to cut down on plastic use, but unfortunately, plastics are used to make many useful products. They are used for dental materials like braces, making pipes, and food product packaging. While it’s hard to cut the material entirely from your life, there are a few types of plastics that are safer to use. Thermoplastics are safe for the environment and are made from non-toxic lightweight recyclable plastics that can be recycled and weigh .9 to 2 grams. Many of these products we make will be here for a long time to come.
The Benefits of Thermoplastics
Thermoplastics are chemical resistant and can endure all kinds of temperature extremes and weather. They are used in the food and medical industries, machine parts, packaging, and other consumer goods. It is used for tubing, injection molding, and extrusion. There are several types of thermoplastics that have been developed from polymers. One is acrylic, a substitute for glass, which is used to make aquariums, motorcycle helmet visors, airplane windows, and exterior lights on cars. Acrylic is used to make signs for businesses and logos for companies. Thermoplastics come from polymers that melt when heated and cool to a solid material.
Different Types of Thermoplastics and Their Use
You would be amazed at how many thermoplastics products we use. Nylon is another material that substitutes for silk in products like parachutes, vests, and stockings for women. Nylon fibers are used to make rope, strings on musical instruments, and carpets. Nylon is used for mechanical parts like screws, and gear wheels. As you see, it has many practical uses that would be hard to eliminate. Another type of thermoplastic is polypropylene, a substance used to make plastic containers, diapers, car batteries, piping systems, a material used to repair hernias, and manufacture heat-resistant metals.
Polystyrene is another material that is used in many different ways. It is used to make disposable cutlery, plastic model cars and airplanes, insulation and packing products, and cups made of styrofoam. It is used in making toys and architectural models. Polyvinyl chloride is also resistant to acids and bases. It is a lightweight material used in the construction industry for vinyl siding, gutters, drain pipes, and roofing sheets. When they add other materials, it is used for hoses, electrical insulation, jackets, and upholstery. Teflon, another class of thermoplastic, is used in nonstick cookware and construction for containers and pipes that come in contact with chemicals.
Invisalign Braces and 3-D Printing
Thermoplastics are used in making Invisalign retainers, which replace metal braces in many children and adults. It is a safe plastic that is free of BPA, a chemical linked to cancer. These aligners are recyclable and can go into the recycling bin. About 47% of teens that use Invisalign retainers say it boosts their self-esteem as compared to the 22% of teens that have metal braces. These aligners are also approved by the FDA.
Another way thermoplastics are used is in 3D printing. They are used to make filaments in machinery for 3D printing. It has opened the possibility for this material to be used in the auto manufacturing and housing industries. It is safer and uses consumer waste to make these products, reducing the waste in landfills.
Benefits of Plastic Pipes
Thermoplastics are used in making pipes for plumbing and other parts. These parts are beneficial because they do not rust and corrode as metal does. They do not have to be painted and can be installed right out of the package. A complete pipe system is less expensive than a metal one. It is easier for water and other liquids to flow through plastic pipes as they are smooth and not obstructed by rust and debris. Metal pipes rust, corrode and have scaling, reducing water flow and increasing pressure. CIPP is a method of repairing pipes that does not require them to be dug up. Liners made of thermoplastic are inserted into the damaged pipe and steam or water hardens the material into plastic. CIPP is a technique that makes the pipe new and it does not need further repair. The problem is that fumes sometimes leak into the air, which can be toxic to residents and the environment.
Thermoplastics and other kinds of plastics are used to manufacture many useful products. Our main challenge is to make plastics that are safer and able to break down in landfills without being toxic to the environment.