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What Everyday Life Would be Like Without Petrochemicals

I previously delved into the dependence of EVs on fossil fuels and I thought it would be interesting to explore further some of the products in our lives that we may not realize are derived from oil/gas (petrochemicals).  Below is a list highlighting many of these everyday items and its likely at least 50% of them are items you come across daily. The list below is more of an acknowledgement of the complexity of our supply chains and the continued engrained role fossil fuels play in our society, despite the broader movement towards renewables and energy diversification. So here we go:

  1. Clothes made from polyester, acrylic, or nylon
  2. Shampoo/conditioner, soap, hair products (the liquid itself and the bottles
  3. Eyeglasses and contact lenses
  4. Paint (for walls, exterior, car, street lanes, anything)
  5. Kids toys (even the wood ones that usually have a rope or lacquer on them)
  6. Kids dishes, safety devices, strollers, and components (made of plastic)
  7. Jackets and any clothes waterproof or weatherproof
  8. Wiring – anything with electrical including your house, car, airplanes, traffic lights and much more are covered in plastic
  9. Shoes
  10. Artificial Vanilla Extract
  11. Sports equipment (helmets, padding, gloves, pucks)
  12. Sports balls (golf, football, basketball, others)
  13. Large sporting goods like kayaks, bicycles, skis, boats
  14. Most things with padding or protective equipment
  15. Sport watches
  16. Anything that needs to be sealed from water with gaskets or sealants (ie fridges, air conditioners, washers, piping, bathrooms, windows, siding, doors)
  17. Headphones
  18. Garden hoses, tools, sprayers, mowers and lawn fertilizer
  19. Dentures and retainers
  20. Cleaners, chemicals and solvents
  21. Computers and smartphones  (many components including the screen and outer cover are plastic)
  22. Rubber gloves and boots
  23. Many car components (such as seats, dashboard, bumpers, tires, structural walls, light covers)
  24. Pharmaceutical and vitamin capsules and packaging
  25. Tape and glue and anything adhesive
  26. Wind turbines and solar panels components
  27. Many hospital components since plastic is easy to keep clean (syringes, equipment, hoses, gloves, counters, etc)
  28. Many health devices (replacement heart valves, joints, pacemakers, braces)
  29. Most components in your fridge and other appliances (think of the plastic walls, shelving, and wiring inside)
  30. Crayons, markers, pens
  31. Saran wrap and plastic containers
  32. Any plastic packaging, tape, bags
  33. Toothbrushes and hairbrushes
  34. Makeup, perfume, lotions, cosmetics, and deodorant
  35. Water bottles (reusable or not)
  36. Electric pianos
  37. Brooms, vacuums, buckets, other household cleaning items
  38. Coffee makers
  39. Pillow covers, blankets, towels
  40. Household safety such as bandages, Neosporin, etc
  41. Credit cards, bank cards
  42. Insulation and Foam
  43. All electronic devices due to the wiring coverings as well as many components like buttons and casings
  44. Candles, Balloons and party supplies
  45. String and rope
  46. Life jackets and other buoyancy devices
  47. Chairs and couches (plastic, foam cushions, outer shells)
  48. Styrofoam and other takeout packaging
  49. Hearing aids
  50. Lubricants, coolants and other components of machinery and appliances
  51. Roads and pavement

As you can see from this list, there are many items you might already know are made from petrochemicals, but also many that likely come as a surprise. One of the more difficult aspects to overcome when finding a suitable replacement for these products is the durability, cleanliness, lightweight and low reactivity of plastic products in particular. Its also ironically this durability that makes these products a challenge for breaking down and removing from the environment after use unfortunately.

So next time you are going about your daily routine, take a look around and ask how much of your room or office or vehicle or even outdoor space is made of wholly or partially from petrochemicals and think how different the world would be if we didn’t have access to this – both for better and worse.