Plastics Make it Possible
Everyone knows that plastics are an integral part of daily life. However, most people probably don’t appreciate that without these innovative, transformative materials, the world’s environmental footprint would be magnified through wasted food, energy and various other natural resources.
As advocates of the plastics manufacturing industry, SPI and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) work together to conduct positive, educational campaigns aimed at highlighting the many ways that plastics make things possible.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that the primary vehicle for reaching consumers operates under the banner of Plastics Make it Possible®, an initiative sponsored by America’s Plastics Makers™ through ACC with support from SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association. This national, consumer-focused campaign highlights the multiple ways plastics inspire innovations that improve lives, solve big problems and help design a safer, more promising future.
The history of plastic dates back 150 years when the first manmade plastic was unveiled by Alexander Parkes at the Great International Exhibition in London. Parkes’ plastic, dubbed Parkesine, was a bio-based material derived from cellulose that could be molded when heated, and retained its shape when cooled.
The industry has advanced since Parkes’ 1862 invention, and to date, the plastics manufacturing industry is investing in outreach and communications plans to help consumers understand the ways that plastics contribute to sustainability. Anyone who spends time on plasticsmakeitpossible.com will quickly learn the value of plastics from industry insiders and experts from other fields like fashion, food, medicine and transportation. Here’s some interesting information readers will learn on the website.
Role of Plastics in Health and Safety
Plastics help save lives in the doctor’s office and the hospital emergency room. Jay Cude, SPI’s former board chair who works as the global director of sales and marketing for ITW Medical Products, once said, “The disposable medical products industry wouldn’t exist without the plastics industry.”
And whether it’s IV bags, syringes, sterile wrappers, incubators or dialysis machines, a quick inventory of a medical facility would prove Cude’s point. For example, PMIP posted a piece on an innovative hearing aid called the Solar Ear. While the advanced product looks like an ordinary hearing aid—a cashew-shaped piece of plastic that tucks behind the ear—it’s less expensive because it is powered by batteries that are recharged in a plastic solar battery charger. Thus, the tiny piece of plastic has enhanced the lives of many hearing impaired patients who were unable to afford costly, traditional hearing aids.
In another form of healthcare, researchers developed plastic-based nets treated with insecticides to ward off malaria-carrying mosquitoes used by residents of some African countries. Insecticide treated nets (ITNs) were developed in the 1980s, and are believed to be up to 50 percent more effective than non-treated nets.
Other plastic safety gear gives consumers the chance to avoid medical emergencies. Air bags, seatbelts, child safety seats, bicycle helmets and modern building products made with plastics provide a few examples of how advancements in the industry have benefited people worldwide.
Lessons from Professor Plastic
Futuristic technologies like 3-D printing are described in detail along with photographs and videos on Professor Plastics’ popular PMIP page. Professor Plastic is an interactive feature in which the teacher answers questions about how plastics are made, why there are so many different types of plastics and whether a product can be recycled.
But just as important, the professor provides information about cutting-edge technology like 3-D printing, or additive manufacturing. Unlike typical manufacturing that whittles away at a piece of material to make a product, 3-D printing adds layer upon layer to create a product, resulting in very little waste.
In one post, Professor Plastic is asked whether 3-D printing would be better for the environment. She responds by stating that 3-D printing remains in its infancy and additional data and production is needed to accurately answer the question, but nevertheless, the new technology is generating plenty of buzz, as noted elsewhere on PMIP’s website. An article reposted from Wiredmagazine reveals a novel process that allows a 3-D printed dress to move and sway like real fabric. Experts are also using 3-D printing technology to create medical devices like prosthetic legs, arms, hands and feet. Indeed, PMIP’s recent “Innovation of the Week” was a 3-D plastic prosthetic leg created for a dog named Derby.
Follow PMIP on Twitter @plasticpossible and Professor Plastic on Google+.
Visit the homepage for the “Innovation of the Week,” join the conversation or enter contests by following the campaign on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+.