The Role of Oil in Plastics

With the attention of the public riveted to the ongoing drama of the tragic BP oil spill along the Gulf coast, there has been much talk going on about how the United States can reduce its dependence on oil. After all, if we didn’t need to drill, a disaster like this never would have happened. However, much of the discussion has focused solely on alternative energy sources. You don’t exactly have to be a plastics injection molding manufacturer to know that the gasoline in our vehicles isn’t the only place where oil plays a role in our lives. Most of the plastic used in today’s world is also manufactured from petroleum.

Oil extraction is performed in various spots around the world, after which it is shipped to special facilities for refining, generally via container tanker. It is there that the oil undergoes a number of distillation processes in order to make the base materials that will be transformed into everything from plastic bottles and display cases to the gasoline that you fill up your car with. Such processes include fractional distillation, in which the oil is heated to the point that the various components separate from each other.

Even though most of the plastic currently on the market today is petroleum based, that doesn’t mean that you should start boycotting acrylic diecast car displays any more than you would travel around by horseback. Rather, do what you can to support alternative energy development and plastics derived from renewable plant sources.

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