Versatile plastics inspire innovations that help make life better, healthier and safer every day. Plastics are used to make bicycle helmets, child safety seats and airbags in automobiles. They’re in the cell phones, televisions, computers and other electronic equipment that makes modern life possible. They’re in the roofs, walls, flooring and insulation that make homes and buildings energy efficient. And plastics in packaging help keep foods safe and fresh.
Some plastics occur in nature, like tree rubber. There are “organic” plastics, which contain carbon, and inorganic plastics, which don’t. Some plastics are hard and shatter-resistant, others are soft and flexible. Plastics make possible many things people don’t recognize as plastic at all – like paints, protective coatings and linings, adhesives and glues, and sealants and insulation. Some plastics have additives that make them bacteria- or fire-resistant; or give them a rainbow of colors; or make them flexible; or fill them with bubbles to make them better insulators; or even add fibers to make high-tech composites. There are tens of thousands – or more – of different kinds of plastics and formulations.