Polypropylene: What it is and how it is used?
It can be hard to imagine what life was like before plastics as they seem to be everywhere in modern society. One of the most versatile plastics you can find in all sorts of places is polypropylene.
Created by scientists in Italy in the early 1950s, commercial production of the material began in 1957. Today, polypropylene is used in everything from medical equipment to van lining. Indeed, it makes up around a quarter of the total market for plastics at over 55 million tonnes. Only polythene has a larger share of the global plastics market.
Why is this material so popular? First, its melting point is high, so it is often used in containers that are to be used in microwave cookery. It doesn’t react with detergents, acids or water, giving the material a long life before it starts to break down. The material can be formed by moulding or by extrusion, so it can be used to make a wide range of products.
It resists stress cracking even when it gets flexed, and it withstands daily knocks and wear and tear well. This makes it ideal for use in things like hinges but also in Van Lining, where it may be subject to constant knocks and movement. Polypropylene is also recyclable, so at the end of an item’s useful life, it can be turned into plastic pellets that can then be used to make another object. Most kerbside recycling schemes accept bottles and other packaging containers made of polypropylene.
All of these qualities mean polypropylene can be found in many different products. It is used in items that need to withstand everyday knocks, such as car bumpers. Elsewhere in the car, the casing of the battery is often polypropylene, as are the dash and many items inside the vehicle. Many items in our kitchens are made of this versatile material, such as reusable goods like food storage containers and cooking utensils, along with packaging materials like bottle tops.
It can be used to make items like plastic chairs and formed into panels that are used in building to provide tough, waterproof roofing. Polypropylene can also be spun into fibres, which means it can be used to make things like ropes, filters and wipes.