Plastics influences every activity in modern life and many depend entirely on plastics products. Imagine cars without plastic bumper, dashboards, steering wheels and switches; medicine without plastic hypodermic syringes and artificial hip joints. And what about telecommunications, dependent on plastic telephones, circuit boards, and cable insulation. Our entertainment and leisure relies on the unique combination of characteristics offered by plastics in sports equipment and clothing, CDs, video and audio tape, television and cinema – indeed you wouldn’t be able to read this over the internet without plastics! All these plastics products are made from the essential polymer mixed with a complex blend of materials known collectively as additives. Without additives, plastics would not work, but with plastic additives, they can be made safer, cleaner, sturdier and more colorful. Plastic Additives cost money, of course, but by reducing production costs and making products last longer, they help us to save money and conserve the world’s precious raw material reserves. Our world today would be a lot less safe, a lot more expensive and a great deal duller without the additives that turn basic polymers into useful plastics. Here are some of the advantages plastic additives provide us with. As there are numerous, this blog is divided into two parts of which this is the second:
Plastic Additives Make Plastics Safe And Sound
Proper design in plastics includes the art of combining the inherent safety properties of plastics, such as solid materials, with appropriately designed product features. Rounded edges, child-resistant closures, and tamper-evident seals are examples. Even greater safety factors can be built in through the use of plastic additives.
Most people are probably not aware that all our significant plastics are similar in composition to natural polymers such as wood, wool, silk or cotton. They are all based on organic molecules which can catch fire and burn. In some cases, this is not a problem, but in other situations, it could mean life or death. The building materials that are used to construct our homes, schools and public buildings must be protected against fire by law, which means they must nor ignite or spread flame. Depending on the type of plastics material and the imminent hazard, there are many FLAME RETARDANT plastic additives available to help satisfy this requirement.
Sturdy crash helmets and color-coded occurred regularly when pulleys overheated, causing dangerous warning lights are produced with plastic additives (Shell).
An excellent example of lives saved by flame retardants in plastics is the conveyor belt in coal mines. For many years fires occurred regularly when pulleys overheated, causing severe accidents and deaths. But when belting made from PVC containing high levels of flame retardants was introduced in the mid-1950s, these accidents stopped.
An increasing amount of plastics is found in cars today. These human-made materials are often selected for their safety value. Dashboards and bumper not only have to look stylish and work well but must also prevent injury by absorbing and dissipating the force of an impact. The additive type used in this case would be an impact modifier. Pigments are plastic additives usually chosen to make plastics look more attractive, but they can also increase the safety factor, such as the unique color-coding for electrical wiring. The designers often use colors to accentuate the controls on machines, and day-glow pigments prevent many road accidents: runner and cyclists wear reflective fabrics and strips, while road, rail and building site workers can easily be seen in their fluorescent helmets and jackets.
Polythene, and later polypropylene, inspired a post-war revolution in kitchenware. Now we have something even more versatile and good-looking – Clingfilm – which can prevent micro-organisms spoiling fresh or cooked foods. To do this the polymer is formulated with suitable plastic additives such as plasticizers and non-toxic stabilizer systems. The plasticizer makes the film very clingy so that bacteria cannot get into the food, yet the film can also be porous so that oxygen and water vapor can pass through for safer storage. Most plastics are by nature insulators, and this property has encouraged the development of a myriad of safe electrical products and a pleasure to use: telephones, shavers, hairdryers, radios, TV sets and food processors. Their plugs, sockets, and wires are of course all insulated with plastics as well. However, being non-conductive, static can build up in plastics which attracts annoying dirt and dust. The additive that helps to counteract that problem is known as an ANTI-STATIC AGENT.
Plastic Additives make Plastics work longer
Many natural materials decay with age – even granite erodes over the years. In the world of plastics, measures are being taken to protect products from the effects of time. In extending the life and service of plastics, the unseen protection given by plastic additives can result in materials which lead to new products for even more demanding situations. Imagine the conditions that plastics are subjected to – heat light, electric current, water weathering, cold, and knocks and kicks of regular use in the home, office factory or field. Effectiveness is critical.
Cars are good examples. The next time you are out in a car, take a look at the exterior and interior and under the bonnet. Not only will you find more components than ever before made of plastics, but many of them – from bumpers and wheel trim to steering wheels and door panels – have to endure prolonged exposure to the elements, as well as flying stones, scrapes, knocks and wear. Look at the engine with its plastics moldings, cables, and tubes. Conditions are severe, temperatures are high, yet plastics components still have to – and do – work effectively. In all these cases the longer life plastic additives are silently at work.
Non-fading pigments will help these Spectrum stadium seats to hold their color for many years (Hille).
Children’s toys and garden furniture, packaging and flooring are just some of the products that form the backdrop to our lives, and it is hard to overestimate the rough treatment they have to endure. In sports stadiums, more and more spectator seating is molded in brightly colored plastics, and playing surfaces are often made of synthetic fibers. All of these are exposed to the weather, day and night, summer and winter, but a combination of LIGHT STABILISERS, UV ABSORBERS, and ANTIOXIDANTS ensure consistently high performance. Natural materials usually have to be finished off after manufacture with paints and lacquers. Plastics enjoy the advantage of incorporating before or during the molding process the plastic additives that prolong their useful lives for many years.
Plastic Additives respect the Environment
We all tend to think that plastics consume energy. Plastics help to save energy in many different ways. For example plastics in cars save motorists some six billion liters of fuel per year. This is because plastics have replaced heavier metal parts and inspired designers to create wind-cheating aero-dynamic shapes that cut down on fuel consumption. Without plastic additives to give plastics strength and durability, this would not be possible.
When certain plastics are molded at around 220-degree Celsius, particular plastic additives called BLOWING AGENTS break down to form gases such as nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and water. These gases, trapped in the plastics, turn the material into foam, thus increasing the insulation and energy absorption properties and reducing weight. These foams can be seen in everyday use such as protective food packaging, cushioning in sport’s shoes and in automobile parts where lower pressure saves fuel.
Three stages in the life cycle of time controlled degradable mulching film: begin the growing season, partly degraded film after harvesting and the film after plowing.
Throughout the world crop yields are boosted by plastics film laid over the soil to trap heat and moisture. Tomato production, for example, can be increased by 300%. But what happens to the plastic sheet at the end of the growing season? plastic additives have been developed that allow the layer to capture the sun’s warmth during the growing season but to break up as soon as the harvest arrives. The sheets disintegrate due to the action of sunlight, and the fragments can be plowed into the soil where the soil bacteria quickly breaks them down into carbon dioxide and water. In areas of predictable climate, this process can be timed to an accuracy of within seven days. Where plastics cannot be reused or recycled, biodegradation could offer a clean, safe method of disposal.
Plastics waste disposal can cause problems, especially as plastics are usually mixed up with other types of waste such as paper, metals, and food. For recycling, they need to be sorted into individual polymer types such as polyethylene, polystyrene or polyvinyl chloride. Otherwise, they have no strength if remolded and may fall apart. This is an area in which plastic additives called COMPATIBILISERS can help. They act like chemical adhesives, sticking the different waste plastics material together so that a reasonable amount of cross-blending can be accepted. Mixed plastics waste can be remolded into fencing, pallets and road markers, thus saving valuable timber. All this comes from a waste product that would otherwise have been buried in a landfill site. plastic additives are vital for reprocessing waste plastics into useful second generation products.
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