Wait…That’s Plastic?

Six things you might not know are made with plastics.

Our latest airplanes

Airplane in the sky and cloud at sunrise

Two of the most technologically advanced passenger jets—Boeing Dreamliner and Airbus A350 XWB—are made with composites of plastics that are reinforced with other materials, such as carbon fibers. So the planes are really tough, lighter weight, and more fuel-efficient. And check out the composite wing tips on the Airbus … they bend during flight to improve efficiency!

Drive a modern car? Half of it’s made of plastics.

Woman Passenger On Road Trip In Convertible Car

That’s right, half your car. Today’s modern car is approximately 50 percent plastics by volume. But it’s only approximately 10 percent plastics by weight. Lightweight yet tough plastics—including those advanced composites used in the airplane example above—allow carmakers to “lightweight” their vehicles to help significantly improve gas mileage (plus, enhance safety and design features, too).

That’s not all. For example, Ford says, “Few innovations provide a more wide-ranging performance and efficiency advantage than reducing weight. All factors of a vehicle’s capabilities—acceleration, handling, braking, safety, efficiency—can improve through the use of advanced, lighter materials.” Sweet …

Play sports? You’re probably wearing plastic fibers.

Female athlete stretching while sitting

Next time you’re in a sporting goods store, check out the labels on the shirts, shorts, leggings, and other sports clothing. Nylon, polyester, acrylic, lycra, spandex … all plastic fibers that make up today’s modern stretchy, comfy, sweat-wicking fabrics. And swimmers and surfers—can you even find a cotton swimsuit these days? (Plus, check out most of the safety equipment: helmets, shin guards, mouth guards … pretty much all plastics.)

Play tennis? That racquet’s (typically) made with plastics.

Female tennis player holding racket at the court

“Isn’t it graphite?” you may ask. Yes. Graphite = carbon. Most modern racquets are made with composites, such as plastics and carbon fiber, typically called carbon fiber-reinforced plastics. Like the composites mentioned above, they’re lighter weight, stiffer, and stronger than many of the previous materials used for racquets. Can you even buy a wooden racquet today? Well, maybe at a garage sale …

Stents to open blocked heart arteries

Heart stent with metal mesh

Life-saving “stents” are inserted into coronary arteries to open a heart blockage and deliver medication. They typically are small metal mesh devices covered in plastics. And get this: the FDA has approved a plastic heart stent that doesn’t need the metal mesh. It does its job and then just dissolves completely over time. It helps save a life, then disappears. Sorta super, man. (Get it?)

Modern eyeglasses

Woman with eyeglasses relaxing on stairs at home and enjoying in a book reading.

It’s probably not the best idea to place breakable glass lenses close to your eyeballs. That’s why nearly all modern eyeglasses are made with tough, shatter-resistant plastics, such as polycarbonate. These plastic lenses can be crafted into myriad prescriptions and shapes—and then attached to plastic frames to make us look professional, hipster, nerdy, younger … you get it. Maybe they should be called “eyeplastics”?

Planes, cars, workout clothes, tennis racquets, heart stents, eyeglasses … surprised?

Want to see more? Check out the sequel: 5 More Things You Might Not Know Are Made with Plastics … the Sports Edition … the Safety Edition … plus, the Great Outdoors Edition