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If You Think You’re Living a Plastic-Free Life, You May Need to Take a More Serious Look

Time: 2017-11-13
If You Think You’re Living a Plastic-Free Life, You May Need to Take a More Serious Look

What are some common plastic products we commonly use every day? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Miranda Marcus, Applications Engineer at EWI specializing in Plastic Joining, on Quora:

A typical day of plastics:

The alarm blares, you reach over and slam the Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) snooze button with as much enthusiasm as you can muster in those painful first moments of wakefulness.

Groaning, you pull back your 40% Polyester sheets and make your way groggily to the bathroom.

You blink fuzzily as you pop in your Silicone Hydrogel contact lenses. Suddenly, everything comes into focus, one step closer to joining the land of the living.

Stifling a yawn, you grab your Polypropylene toothbrush handle, squeeze some toothpaste out of the (mostly) Polyethylene tube, and scrub the Polyamide bristles aggressively against your teeth.

As you appreciate the clean mouth feeling, you smooth out your bed head with a Polyacetal hair brush.

Thinking about your day ahead, you pull on your 100% Nylon underwear (oh, we saw this material already this morning, but called it Polyamide). Next, you don your 78% Cotton / 19% Polyester / 3% Spandex (AKA Polyether/Polyurea Copolymer) stretch jeans and 50% Viscose (AKA Cellulose or Polysaccharide, an organic polymer, so not necessarily a plastic) / 32% Nylon / 18% Acrylic top.

Minding your health, you grab some berries out of their Polyester Terephthalate container and a glob of yogurt scooped out of its’ Polypropylene cup and throw them in the Polycarbonate blender. You transfer the delicious goop into your BPA-free Polycarbonate/Polyester Copolymer insulated travel cup.

Settling into your car for the daily commute, you flip up your Vinyl (AKA Polyvinyl Chloride) visor and flip on your Polymethyl Methacrylate lens headlights. You grip the Vinyl steering wheel and join the morning traffic. The Rubber tires of your car turn reliably as you make your way to work, except for when you employ your Kevlar fiber brake pads to arrest forward motion.



At work, you type away on the Polystyrene keys of your keyboard while sitting on a Polybutylene Terephthalate frame office chair with Polypropylene mesh back.

At lunch time, you unpack your meal from your waterproof, insulated, Neoprene cooler. Your sandwich is still fresh after being sealed in a Polyethylene re-closable bag. You pop open the frangible seal on your multi-layer snack bag, which uses Ethylene Vinyl Alcohol as an Oxygen barrier, Linear Low Density Polyethylene as an internal sealing layer and Polyester Terephthalate on the outside.

In your afternoon meeting you take notes using a Polycarbonate (PC) enclosed pen while leaning on the Epoxy clear coated conference table.

Relaxing after work, you lounge on your cow-friendly but leather-like PVC couch while you channel surf using your ABS/PC Copolymer remote control. Hungry, you cook a quick stir-fry in your Teflon (AKA Polytetrafluoroethylene) coated frying pan. You conscientiously pack up the leftovers in Polypropylene Tupperware.

Ready for bed, you jump in the shower for a quick wash. You squeeze some shampoo out of the Polyethylene bottle and shave using an Acrylic handled razor. You grab the soap from its Plexiglass (did you know that’s the same thing as Acrylic and Polymethyl Methacrylate?) dish and rub it into your Polyethylene shower sponge to clean your body with the resulting lather. Afterwards, you dry off with your 20% Polyamide / 80% Polyester microfiber quick drying towel.

Sliding back into your 40% Polyester sheets, you wonder as you drift off to sleep, “What plastics did I use today?”

This description just highlights some of the most common plastics we encounter everyday. Many of these products can be made with a variety of different polymers other than those mentioned, and there are many types of polymers not appearing in this answer which are used for non-daily, uncommon, or non-obvious applications.

This question originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

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