Power of Plastics

Can you think of another material—one material—that does more than plastics?

Blood flows from the vena cava into the right atrium of a man’s heart. A valve opens and allows the blood to flow into the right ventricle, then closes, allowing the blood to flow one way, back into the man’s body. The valve is attached to the wall of the man’s heart with plastic.

Power is transmitted through a wire to light up a house’s living room, charge a smartphone, power a breathing machine or cook a meal. The power flows through wires that would heat up and become dangerous, were they not wrapped in protective plastic.

A biker quickly glances back at the traffic behind them, missing the pothole ahead of her, which she hits, hard. She flips forward and lands head first on the concrete. The biker’s head is protected from the impact by their helmet, which is made of plastic.

Contaminated water collected in buckets from a river in a developing country harbors millions of dangerous bacteria. An aid worker arrives to a village in the country with crates of bottled water that’s safe to drink. The bottles are made of plastic.

A young man in a city emails a potential employer on his smartphone regarding the position he interviewed for that day. He bumps into a lamppost and drops his phone, which hits the ground with a loud clap. The phone itself remains intact because it was in a protective case. The case is made out of plastic.

A young girl in high school decides to write a thank you card to her grandmother. She reaches for her preferred pen. The cap, outer casing and inkwell are all made of plastic.

An older woman reaches for her glasses to read a note her granddaughter wrote her from college. The frames and the lenses are made of plastic.

Facing a house of hungry kids as the clock ticks toward dinnertime, a father reaches for a can of tomato sauce purchased months ago to make spaghetti marinara. The can is still intact, and the tomato sauce inside doesn’t taste like metal, because the inside of the can is lined with plastic.

Life, today, doesn’t happen without plastic materials. Life, tomorrow, won’t happen without plastic materials either. Over the last 155 years plastics have gone from being a replacement for ivory to:

No other material in the history of humanity has ever had the versatility of plastic. Each and every day the men and women in this industry work to find new ways where these materials can be adjusted, strengthened and put to use improving peoples’ lives— having the way for a safer, healthier and more sustainable future.