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Best material to replace plastics

  1. Wood

    0 vote(s)
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  2. Ceramic

    0 vote(s)
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  3. Metal

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  4. Material X ??

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Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. May 21, 2010 #1
    Plastics is one of the widely used material in the modern world. Almost all the items that we use today are made up of plastics. It is also a major contributor to environmental pollution.
    Which is the best material that can replace plastics?

    Ethan
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 21, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. May 21, 2010 #2

    alxm

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    Science Advisor

    Plastics aren't going to be replaced. In my opinion, plastics don't need to be replaced. The environmental impact between different kinds of polymers varies enormously. I can't see that there's much truth to a blanket statement such that they're a "major contributor" to pollution.

    That isn't to say there aren't problems. Off the top of my head (having taken courses both in ecology and polymer chemistry), you have:
    1) Most plastics are made from fossil sources (i.e. oil), and thus contribute to global warming when incinerated.
    2) Some plastics are not bio- or photodegradable.
    3) Not all plastics are recyclable, and recycling is often inefficient.
    4) Some plastics contain plasticizers, flame retardants, and other additives which are toxic (e.g. BPA and PBDE).
    5) Plastic litter is an eyesore and can damage animal life (e.g. fish stuck in six-pack rings)

    These are largely independent concerns, and depend entirely on what you do with the plastic once it's done. If the plastic is burned (in a proper facility), points 2-5 are moot, and you only have point 1. Which in turn is not a high priority because even if every bit of plastic manufactured was incinerated for energy, it would only amount to a few percent of the total amount of fossil energy being produced.

    The important thing is that every problem mentioned (save for the last) has a solution, and one which does not involve abolishing plastics. We can make plastics from non-fossil sources. We can make plastics that are more biodegradable. We can replace toxic additives with non-toxic ones.

    All this requires is research and the incentive to do so.

    People vilify plastic more because of what people feel it represents (= cheap, mass-produced, modern, consumerist, wastefulness, "disposable" things), rather than because of any specific property of polymers. Polymers are an important and indispensable class of materials, and they're not going away. As Mr. McGuire said in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSxihhBzCjk": "There's a great future in plastics.". And there still is; we just need better plastics, developed to meet more modern concerns over product safety and environmental friendliness, which do not depend on fossil sources.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
  4. May 21, 2010 #3
    Depends on the job in hand. Whilst paper or cotton may be best for shopping bags, metal may be better at gutters or similar
     
  5. May 22, 2010 #4
    Hi alxm, I am agreeing that plastics are real contributors to human technology, I am not talking about a complete replacement but, some or majority of plastic products can be replaced. Things like PVC , Polystyrene etc are harmful. Even if we tell industries not to use there is no real change going to happen.

    Plastics are used in verity of durable goods. But in places where we can find an alternative we should switch to that. In places plastics are necessary we should take ways to dispose it or recycle it. But silly products like plastic bags, cups, bottles etc etc should be banned from making from plastics.

    if at all we impose a recycling program it will work only in developed countries, In under developing countries where the multi national companies are exporting all this products, this things goes as waste or burned. So in effect it will pollute earth irrespective of which country is the polluter.

    How about shampoo in thin metal sheet tubes like toothpaste??
    How about all cola companies changing from plastic bottles to tin cans?? I am talking about stuff like that, not completely banning plastics.

    And yes the only way to reduce silly plastic products which ends its life time in a matter of minutes or even days are to ban then internationally, than to make a recycling plan. So which is a better alternative to plastics?
     
  6. May 22, 2010 #5
    Hi sjb-2812, what about comon plastic utilities like jars household items etc....
    which is heat resistant, flexible and cheap...

    I thought for a long time but i really can't find an answer

    "What can be used instead of plastics for Electric wire insulation?"

    Requirements
    Should not burn and bad conductor of electricity like mica
    Should be flexible

    ?????????????????

    Ethan
     
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