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Engineering Materials

Plastics Can Do Almost Any Job -- Even Yours

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naperlou
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plastics
naperlou   10/22/2014 10:59:21 AM
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Ann, my wife and I recently watched The Graduate.  She had never seen it.  Do you remember at the main character's graduation party when one of his father's friends took him aside and said, "I have one word for you..."  That word was PLASTICS.  This moviw was made in the 1960s.  It seems this is true even about 50 years later.

My only issue with plastics is that they are organic polymers based on carbon.  The issue here is the source.  Metals, such as steel and aluminum, are not and are very easily recyclable into their original forms.  Plastics can be recycled, but are generally reused in other forms.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: plastics
Ann R. Thryft   10/22/2014 12:14:22 PM
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Lou, sure I remember that line--it has become famous in the industry, as well as outside the industry.
I'm not sure I understand what you mean by comparative recyclability of plastics vs. metals. Can you please clarify?

AnandY
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Re: plastics
AnandY   10/22/2014 11:08:16 PM
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"My only issue with plastics is that they are organic polymers based on carbon.  The issue here is the source.  Metals, such as steel and aluminum, are not and are very easily recyclable into their original forms.  Plastics can be recycled, but are generally reused in other forms."

There are biodegradable plastics available, there just aren't stronger laws to enforce biodegradable plastic using. In India we had a brief encounter with shopkeepers packaging materials with Biodegradable plastics, but that was only to trick patrolling police officers into thinking that they would continue packaging using biodegradable plastics forever. The word got out and the government understood that without proper eduction, no shopkeeper or customer cared about biodegradable plastics, which cost more than regular plastic.

AnandY
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Re: plastics
AnandY   10/22/2014 11:11:24 PM
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@Ann: Metals can easily be recycled and reused. No harm there, however plastic cannot be recycled. They can only be broken down and reused. Your article tells about plastic doing the job of metal, which makes it less costly right now, but if the plastic isn't biodegradable, then we're talking about huge disposal costs in the future.

naperlou
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Re: plastics
naperlou   10/23/2014 11:16:27 AM
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Ann, what I was referring to was that as far as I can tell, plastics are recycled into less valuable materials after being used.  For example, PETE used for things such as soda bottles and medicine containers is recycled into fiberfill for coats and sleeping bags, etc.  It is not used for making more PETE containers.  Steel and aluminum, on the other hand, are refined to make more steel and aluminum. 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: plastics
Ann R. Thryft   10/23/2014 11:54:42 AM
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Lou, plastics may often be recycled into less valuable--i.e., less high-performing--materials, but not always. We've written before about upcycling, which isn't easy to do, but it is possible. SABIC, for instance, has upcycled plastic bottles into heavy truck parts.



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