The debate between plastic and polyurethane is long-standing, but with the increasing focus on sustainability in the manufacturing world, it's more important than ever to understand the difference between these two materials.
So, which is more eco-friendly: plastic or polyurethane?
The problem with plastic
Plastic is mainly synthetic, but can be made using polymers that are a natural production of coal, oil, or natural gas (aka fossil fuels).
Most plastic winds up as thermoplastic, meaning that it is heated, melted, and softened into its desired shape while cooling. This includes bottles, grocery bags, and containers, and is the stuff we see polluting our oceans and filling our sewer systems.
Thankfully, many thermoplastics are reusable and recyclable--but that choice is up to the end user.
And even if they do make the conscious choice to recycle, there aren't many companies out there who are able to turn these products into something reusable.
Not to mention, the recycling process itself isn't very efficient, as a lot of commonly used products aren't even accepted at recycling centers.
Plastic is often seen as less eco-friendly than polyurethane thanks to the fracking required to manufacture it. Fracking is quite harmful to the environment because it uses sand, chemicals, and large amounts of water to break through underground rock. This process also releases methane pollution into the air.
The polyurethane solution
Technically, polyurethane is a form of plastic, but it can be made into various other forms for use in endless applications.
It also comes from natural resources such as coal, natural gas, and oil, but contrary to plastic, polyurethane is made by reacting a polyol with an additive, catalyst, polymeric isocyanate, or diisocyanate.
Polyurethane is an incredibly versatile material due to its ability to be made using several material combinations. It can be manufactured to any desired rigidity, density, and flexibility, as a solid piece or in foam form.
It can also stretch and return to its original form because it is incredibly wear-resistant, giving it an outstanding longevity and eco-friendliness.
Polyurethane works to fight climate change because it is an effective insulator and can increase the energy efficiency of buildings, helping them reduce their carbon footprint.
This material can also be recycled back into its original form as polyol and does not need to be sent to a special facility in order to do so.
Ultimately, polyurethane is more environmentally-friendly and efficient than plastic. At Mark Tool & Rubber, our polyurethane division has over 40 years of experience in the industry, making us true leaders in the manufacturing of cast urethane products. Contact us today to request a quote!