A Report to the National Commission on Fire Prevention and Control,
STANFORD RESEARCH INST MENLO PARK CA
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The consumption of plastics in the United States has grown from 3.5 billion pounds in 1955 to approximately 18 billion pounds in 1970. The rate of growth has been 11 to 13 per year and is expected to continue at least to 1980, at which time an estimated 50 billion pounds of plastics will be consumed annually. Although plastics and plastics products had become familiar in many applications by 1960, the growth of these materials in building products, appliances and furniture, automotive applications, bottles and other containers in packaging, and in textiles were but a few of the developments in bulk plastics applications that have occurred in the past decade. To date this growth in plastics has been primarily due to the low cost and freedom of design offered by these materials. Other possibly more significant factors which are expected to contribute to their increased use in a number of applications are those relating to our urgent ecological requirements to reduce our energy and material consumption and significantly decrease our waste discharge into the environment. A recent analysis of energy consumption in basic materials processing has shown that energy demands for producing a ton of plastics are significantly less than for a ton of steel, glass, or aluminum. The unit volume of plastic components or products which can be produced from this ton of plastics is also higher because of its lighter weight. The combination of these factors results in a total energy savings of 60 to 95 percent when plastics are used in place of heavier materials having higher energy demands.
- Safety Engineering