Traditional materials, such as wood, glass, and steel, are slowly being replaced with modern plastics. Industries are switching to plastic to increase efficiency and durability, as well as minimize costs.
Bins and Pallets
Agriculture and transport have thoroughly embraced the use of plastic over wood. The two industries have switched to plastics – particularly for bins and pallets used to store and transport agricultural produce. Wooden bins and pallets are retained almost solely for aesthetic purposes in farm tours and are barely used in large-scale farming.
Modern plastic storage units are lighter, sturdier, and easier to clean. Standard production sizes and design also make them easier to store. Plastic storage bins are waterproof and less prone to mold. Wooden bins can retain water, becoming the breeding ground for bacteria and mold that cause various diseases or damage to produce.
Plastics are also less likely to be affected by everyday chemicals. Wooden fruit bins can absorb sprayed pesticides and retain the chemicals for years. However, plastic bins can easily be cleaned with just water. The durability and resistance of plastic to chemicals become all the more essential when it comes to storing and transporting liquids.
Plastic IBC container pallets can store the most dangerous chemicals while preventing environmental containment. Metal containers can be prone to oxidization and chemical change when exposed to chemicals, making non-reactive plastics the only choice in most cases.
Steel might seem like a better choice for underground piping. However, they can easily get damaged by tree roots. Plastic pipes (PVC, CPVC, or PEX) are more resilient to damage and are easier to replace if damaged. The non-reactive characteristic of plastic also makes it an ideal medium for water transfer. Copper and brass can degrade with time, and even galvanized steel will react to water due to its lead fittings.
Meanwhile, plastic pipes are safe and inexpensive. They handle enormous water pressure at par with – or even better than – metal piping. Of course, plastic piping has its disadvantages. Standard PVC pipes can warp in high temperatures, and both CPVC and PEX are vulnerable to damage from ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
However, using several types of plastic piping can get around these specific disadvantages. PVC pipes are often used for underground piping, while CPVC is used inside the home. CPVC pipes can withstand temperatures up to 200Â°F, allowing them to be used for both drinking water and heated showers. Plastic piping can last for more than 100 years with the right precautions – more than doubling the lifespan of copper, brass, or steel pipes.
Modern plastics are so resilient that they are being used in the construction of vehicles. While most vehicles will have plastic fuel tanks, some vehicles have plastic chassis and even engine parts. Plastic parts are especially common with electric vehicles (EVs). While reduced weight is the most obvious factor for using plastics in EVs, the material also has additional benefits. Plastic is less expensive than steel or aluminum – both in material and production costs.
Specific plastics can also be designed to match the tensile strength and impact resistance of metals. The heat resistance and thermal insulation properties of plastics are crucial for EVs. Plastics are often integrated into the housing and cooling systems of car batteries, avoiding the risk of overheating and fires associated with metal compartments.
Most modern greenhouses – especially large-scale operations – will use polycarbonate panels instead of traditional glass. Polycarbonate panels are easy to install. A box knife can be used to make precise cuts, and there is no risk of shattering the material with just minor accidents. They are less expensive than glass and are easier to maintain and repair.
Polycarbonate sheets also increase a greenhouse’s efficiency. As sunlight passes over the panels, it disperses, covering a wider area of the greenhouse. Most crops grown under polycarbonate sheets are more uniform in size and appearance, ensuring standard costs and little to no deviation. Polycarbonate greenhouses also retain heat better than glass greenhouses.
More efficient heat retention allows longer growing periods or early starts during the colder months. Using polycarbonate sheets also protects crops from ultraviolet radiation while allowing sunlight to pass unhindered. Moreover, polycarbonate greenhouses are less likely to be damaged. Greenhouse glass can easily be shattered by an errant bird or a thrown stone. However, modern polycarbonate greenhouses take little to no damage from these threats.
Since 1907, industries have been finding more and more use for plastics. Modern plastics have all but replaced glass, wood, and steel in certain industries, and there are bound to be more replacements as technology continues to evolve.