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How to View the Merits and Demerits of Plastics  2009-10-20 14:11:51  

Written by Xu Gaodong and translated by Xin Xue


  Plastic product has become an indispensable element of our lives and we can see it everywhere. But in fact, most of us know little about plastics, so in the following text, the author will talk about the merits and demerits of plastics. But at first, it's necessary to elaborate on the definition of plastic.

  According to an authoritative research report, plastic is a synthetic polymer. It is also called high polymer or macromolecular. Sometimes, people also call it resin. Its form can be changed freely. Plastic is a material polymerizing from monomer materials through synthesis or condensation reactions. It is composed of synthetic resin, filler, plasticizer, stabilizer, lubricant, pigment and other additives, among which, synthetic resin is its major component. The term "resin" was originally referred to the lipid secreted by plants and animals, such as rosin and shellac. Now, resin refers to the high polymer which is not mixed with various additives. Resin accounts for about 40%~100% of the total weight of plastic. The nature of resin decides the basic performance of plastic, but additives also play an important role. Some kinds of plastic, such as organic glass and polystyrene, are basically composed of synthetic resin. They don't contain or contain little additives. Actually, plastic is a kind of synthetic resin. Its shape is similar to pine resin. The difference is that it is synthesized chemically.

  According to American Society for Testing Materials, plastic is a kind of material whose major component is organic material with high molecular weight. It takes on solid shape after processing, but in the course of manufacturing and processing, it can be moulded through the form of fluid. From this definition, we understand more deeply that plastic is a polymer organic compound which is moldable and can exist in the form of liquid, solid, colloid and solution. Different monomer compositions may consist of different plastics, so there are many kinds of plastics and different plastic has different nature, use and processing method. Now that we have learned the basic information of plastic, next let's remark on the merits and demerits of plastic.

  First let's talk about the merits of plastic. Plastic products are safe and environmental friendly and have a long service life in that most of them are anti-corrosion and don't react with acid and alkali; The production cost of plastic is very low. Usually, the price of plastic products is far lower than wooden and metal products; The most prominent performance of plastic products is durable, waterproof and lightweight. Because of these features, plastic products became popular in a short time and replaced metalwork in many respects. They saved many precious non-renewable resources and facilitated consumers; Plastic has good plasticity and can be moulded to different shapes. A dazzling variety of plastic products in the market can greatly meet the individual needs of customers; Because plastic is a good insulator, it is widely used in power supply and other fields and has made great contributions to the social development; Besides, plastic can also be used for the preparation of fuel oil and fuel gas, which can effectively reduce oil consumption.

  Seen from the above respects, plastic has indeed made great contributions to people's lives. However, at the same time, it also inevitably exposed its natural shortcomings. It is difficult and subeconomic to recycle waste plastics due to the various raw materials and different manufacturing process of plastics and its complex products; Plastic is flammable and the combustion of ordinary plastics will produce toxic gases. The combustion of polystyrene generates toluene, a little bit of which will cause blindness. And people will feel discomfort or vomit after inhaling toluene. The combustion of PVC, a kind of plastics, generates HCL and other toxic gas. Besides combustion, benzene and other plastic components would decompose toxic ingredients in high temperature environments. Moreover, many plastics is made from petroleum-based products. As oil resources are limited, the issue of plastics occupying non-renewable resources must be resolved as soon as possible for the purpose of sustainable social development. Furthermore, plastic has weak smoothness and strong adhesion, so the appearances of most plastic products appear to be very rough and they are easily stained by oily. Therefore, in the process of cleaning, plastic containers often need more cleaning agents than metalwares.

  Everything has its advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, we should neither exaggerate plastic's merits nor deny its contributions because of its demerits. The right attitude towards plastic is to make best use of it through exerting its advantages and making up its shortcomings. For the present, plastic products are selling well in the market due to its special performance and advantages. However, we should note that the shortcomings of plastics have already endangered people's health and hindered the long-term development of society to a certain extent. Consequently, we should follow the state economic regulations on environmental protection by continuously improving the performance of plastic and eliminating the harmful ingrediants in plastic products. Our aim is to guide plastic manufacturing industry to step on a way of sustainable development, which is the development direction of plastic industry.

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