I’m probably just getting old, but I always swallow hard when I see discussion of plastics in the popular media. The current issue of Time, for example, has a one page article titled “Freshen Up Your Drink” under the heading of “health”. The article tackles the subject of whether it’s OK to re-use water bottles, and looks at the case for single-use PET, polycarbonate, HDPE and stainless steel. A table with the article states that HDPE is “made from petroleum”. Are people supposed to believe that PET and polycarbonate are not derived from petroleum? Possibly they are made from some magical substance that is totally benign from an environmental and health viewpoint. The article states that “PET degrades with use”, but that there are “no known problems” with HDPE. My goodness, HDPE, which is a lower quality material than PET, does not degrade with use? And wait a minute, weren’t we just told five minutes ago by the green lobby that we want this stuff to degrade?
The article tells Time readers to dispose of PET containers after a single use (or re-use them as flower pots!), re-use HDPE containers because they are safe, and re-use stainless containers because they are as safe as glass. Time indicates that scientists have concerns with BPA leaching from PC even at room temperature. The article cautions readers not to fill stainless containers with hot water, but makes no such admonition for HDPE! The melting point for stainless is around 2600F; HDPE, 430F!
I remember 30 or so years ago how much I hated all of the broken glass litter left from people who smashed beer bottles. Today, I do see some trash of cans or plastic bottles, but at least they aren’t a safety hazard. And now we’re worrying about whether it’s safe to re-use plastic containers? OK, but let’s at least make sure we make some sense from a technical perspective.
Dow Chemical and several other companies have launched a program in Omaha, Neb. to divert about 36 tons of plastics from landfills in its first phase, and convert it into energy used for cement production.
A make-your-own Star Wars Sith Lightsaber hilt is heftier and better-looking than most others out there, according to its maker, Sean Charlesworth. You can 3D print it from free source files, and there's even a hardware kit available -- not free -- so you can build one just in time for Halloween.
Some next-generation bio-based materials are superior in performance to their petro-based counterparts, but also face some commercial challenges. This is especially true of certain biopolymers, adhesives, coatings, and advanced materials.
Cars and other vehicles, as well as electronics and medical devices, continue to lead the use cases for the new plastics products we've been seeing, as engineers design products for tougher environments.
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