A recent article in the Chicago Tribune highlighted 10 things to “know” about plastics gleaned from a new book by author Susan Freinkel. Since that list seemed to present a pretty one-sided perspective, I thought I’dshed some light on the important benefits that plastics contribute to safety and health every day and the major advances in the availability of plastics recycling. Here are 10 things about plastic that you may not have known:
1) All plastics intended for contact with food must meet stringent FDA safety requirements before they’re allowed on the market.
2) The use of plastic bicycle helmets can reduce the risk of brain injury by as much as 90 percent.
3) Today’s plastics make up 50 percent of the volume of cars but contribute only ten percent of the weight, which helps make cars lighter, more fuel efficient and results in fewer CO2 emissions.
4) A recent study from Europe shows that using plastics instead of alternative materials helps to reduce energy use by 57% and greenhouse gas emissions by 61%.
5) The use of plastics enables important food preservation methods, such as vacuum packaging, controlled atmosphere packaging and shrink film to protect and extend the freshness of fruits, vegetables, milk and other nutritious foods. For example, according to the Cucumber Growers’ Association, just 1.5 grams of plastic wrap extends a cucumber’s shelf life from 3 to 14 days.
6) We really couldn’t have modern medicine without plastic. Many medical supplies are protected against contamination by sterile plastic packaging; and puncture-resistant gloves help protect doctors and nurses from infections.
7) Plastics help make prostheses stronger, lighter, more flexible and realistic, helping disabled people live more active lives.
Over 94 percent of Americans have access to a plastics recycling program, be it curbside collection or a community drop-off center. In 2009, the recycling of plastic bottles, bags and containers all reached record highs as the U.S. recycled over 4.2 billion pounds of plastics, saving enough energy to power 2.1 million homes.
9) Across the United States, consumers have the opportunity to recycle plastic bags and wraps at 12,000 locations. Many large grocery and retail chains (including WalMart, Target and Lowes) now invite shoppers to return their used plastic bags and wraps for recycling.
10) Recycled plastics are used to make all sorts of innovative products, including fleece jackets, t-shirts, carpeting durable backyard decks, handbags, and new bottles, bags and containers.