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In order to race with his family, Rio has support from a surprising source. From mobility aids to safety in sports, see how plastics is making a difference in Rio’s life. Let’s think before we throw and use plastics responsibly to help create a better world.

Plastics as an enabler for safe sports and inclusion

 

Physical activities and sports are an integral part of the daily routines of millions of people around the world as they help to keep us healthy and improve the quality of our lives.

Whether we are cycling, running, playing basketball or even swimming, working out adds a dose of positivity to our lives.

Everyone should have the right to practice sports regardless of their ability and background. Thanks to plastics innovations, staying active has become increasingly more accessible, safer, and easier to practice.

Plastics have revolutionized sports and fitness in recent years. Recent innovations in plastics have enabled many more people to practice and enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle.

That’s because plastics are incredibly energy efficient to manufacture and lighter than alternative materials. For example, soccer balls are nowadays made of plastic and not leather due to its water resistant properties and great flight characteristics.

Plastics also play a key role in the production of sports gear – whether you’re running on the pitch or climbing up a mountain, the light weight, comfort, durability, and water resistance of your shoes are all ensured thanks to high performance innovative materials made of versatile plastics.

 

Safety through plastics

When it comes to sports, safety is at the core of some of plastics’ wonderful applications. Did you know that wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head injuries by almost 70%?

In racing, car fatalities declined dramatically with the introduction of lighter weight carbon fiber-reinforced plastic chasses that improve driver protection.

Helmets are created from nothing else but plastics, using a hard outer molder polycarbonate shell and either polyurethane, polystyrene, polypropylene, or ethylene-vinyl acetate foam inside to absorb impact and cushion the head when an accident occurs.

Protective gear such as mouthguards, faceplates, knee pads, shoulder pads, buckles and straps are also plastic components that protect athletes from any injuries.

Other sports which were made more competitive thanks to plastics:

  • Decades ago, we switched from leather to plastics in most athletic shoes as plastics allows for better speed and increased sprinters’ performance
  • Tennis racquets have evolved over the years too – from clunky laminated wood frames to high-tech carbon fibre-reinforced plastic frames with tough nylon, polyamide and other plastic strings that help enable the pros to deliver 150+ mile per hour serves
  • Swimsuits made with polyurethane foam improve buoyancy and reduce friction and drag to make swimmers more competitive and faster

Plastics also enable the production of the key materials we need to stay comfortable during extreme weather conditions in winter and summer. It is difficult to find an alternative to plastics that can improve the performance of materials so effectively and efficiently, while keeping us both comfortable and safe.

 

How plastics support people of determination

Plastics are incredibly useful materials with extremely diverse properties, allowing a multitude of different applications that benefit our lives. Plastic innovations have made prosthetics available to many more people who need them.

Did you know?

Amputees and their carers can bear financial burdens often ranging from USD 5,000-50,000, but plastic 3D printing for prosthetics can cut these costs down to USD 500 allowing many more people to live comfortably.

These strides in mobility aids have been made possible thanks to the malleable and lightweight properties of plastics.

Plastic wheelchairs and crutches tend to last for a very long time because of plastic’s hardwearing properties. Their parts can also be repaired or renewed for a longer lifecycle. At the end of their use, charitable organizations can carry out safety and liability checks on donated equipment before lending out wheelchairs and other mobility aids to others that need them.

Thanks to their ability to be recycled, used plastics can be given a second life. In De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), UK, researchers have created a lightweight prosthetic limb made from recycled plastic bottles that was cost effective yet comfortable and durable for amputee patients[1].

 

Plastic in our lives

Our life without plastic would have been unthinkable, particularly when it comes to playing sports and staying active, taking care of our health, security and safety, and making sports accessible for people of determination.

Plastic innovations have changed the lives of many, allowing us to increase the competitiveness of athletes, safeguarding their safety and enabling us to enjoy the benefits of indoor and outdoor activities on our own, with our friends, families and loved ones.

Especially in the lives of people of determination, no other material has been more vital than plastic which has enabled medical and technical innovations to keep them active, re-energized, safe, and most importantly, included.

 

[1] https://www.dmu.ac.uk/about-dmu/news/2019/august/researchers-turn-plastic-water-bottles-into-prosthetic-limbs.aspx

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