Why Buy Plastic Patio Furniture?
A Definition of Plastics
Plastics are organic and synthetic polymers that originate from petrochemicals (chemical products derived from petroleum), providing pliable solids that are moldable and able to be shaped into various patterns and forms. Organic polymers compose most modern plastics, with synthetic or natural compounds blended in to fine tune the properties of the plastic. Fillers, such as chalk and colorants, are added to reduce expenses, reinforce the plastic, change the color, reduce weight and other reasons. The rigidness, elasticity and overall composition of a plastic is determined by how chains of carbon atoms and sometimes nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur atoms combine into molecular groups and "hang" from each other. Changing the chemical structure of these molecular groups creates different forms of plastics such as polyurethanes, silicones, polyesters, acrylics and much more. These various forms of plastics are usually divided into two subgroups: thermoplastics, or plastics that can be heated and reshaped over and over again, and thermosetting plastics, or plastics that set their chemical composition when heated, and thus cannot be reheated or remolded. Most plastic patio furniture is constructed from thermoplastics such as polyurethane or polypropylene.
The History of Plastics
Plastics offer an interesting history. Historically plastics can be tied to rubber; Mesoamericans as early as 1,600 B.C.E. stabilized natural rubber for constructing objects such as balls used for sport, producing the first thermo-setting products.
While Europeans since the Middle Ages used proteins derived from milk, blood and eggs to create organic polymers by combining these substances with lye, the development of what we now consider plastics took major leaps and bounds with the "invention" of the vulcanization of rubber by Charles Goodyear. His process was essential the same process used by Mesoamericans mentioned above, but inadvertently refined to create a more stable product. This process granted the ability to thermoset natural rubber, sparking the creation of many early plastic products derived from this process.
Synthetic plastics can trace their origin to Bakelite, invented in 1907 by Leo Hendrik Baekland, a Belgian chemist living in New York. This first synthetic plastic was discovered while searching for a shellac to coat and insulate electric wires; this early substance was made from phenol, a carbolic acid extracted from coal tar, and formaldehyde, and organic compound used to preserve dead bodies.
Combining these two materials produced a tacky, gummy substance that could be mixed with chalk-like materials such as wood flour, dust or asbestos to create solid materials. He named the new product Bakelite and successfully marketed his new invention for use in electrical and mechanical industries. Use of Bakelite exploded after 1920, being used for everything from letter openers to radios to furniture.
Bakelite is considered the first thermosetting plastic derived from a purely synthetic material. The rest of the 20th century noticed the improvement of Baekland's invention, with chemists perfecting the rigidness, strength, flexibility, color and feel of plastics; plastic polymers invented during this time include nylon, polyvinyl chloride (called simply "vinyl"), polystyrene (Styrofoam), polycarbonates, polyurethanes, polyester and much more. Today plastics are used throughout society for all kinds of applications, from seating to machine and computer parts to weapons and vehicles.
The Best Plastic for Your Patio: Polyurethane or Poly-Lumber Furniture
The best contemporary plastic patio furniture is constructed from the plastic polyurethane, or poly-lumber. Polyurethane is a polymer that is flexible yet tough and will resist breaking, chipping and fading.
In addition to patio furniture, polyurethanes are used in insulation, seals, wheels, tires, automotive bushings, adhesives, synthetic fibers such as Spandex and much more. Polyurethanes are currently the most commonly used plastic materials to be used by the automotive industry in everything from radio knobs and buttons to bumpers and fenders.
Polyurethane was developed in 1937 by Otto Bayer in Leverkusen, Germany for use in fibers or flexible foams. Due to World War II however, polyurethanes were not commercially available until 1952, with the introduction of polyisocynate foam onto the market.
Bayer found he could change the flexibility, rigidness and other aspects of polyurethane by adding fillers such as mica, glass and other minerals. Through this process poly-lumber was developed, and this material has spread in use. Poly-lumber is a great resource for patio furniture (pictured above left are Adirondack chairs constructed from poly-lumber), but is also used for decking and other objects and areas that are exposed to the weather.
Making Poly-Lumber: The Green Option For Your Patio Furniture
What do you do with a pile of empty milk jugs? You could throw them in a dump and further upset Mother Nature, or you could recycle them and make fabulous patio furniture.
Poly lumber is the green answer to any
patio furniture needs. Plastic milk jugs and bottles, once destined to stay forever in a land-fill are repurposed, recycled and reused.
The plastic is first cleaned and transformed into pellets. Color is added to the pellets, as well as UV inhibitors; the pellets are then formed into actual sheets of “lumber” which is cut into the shapes and sizes needed. And from there it becomes amazing patio furniture that's impervious to wind, rain, snow, sleet, wind, sand and salt, making it not only a green choice, but a smart choice for outdoor living.
CLEANING: Wash or spray with a mild soap and water and a soft bristle brush; rinse thoroughly. Poly lumber can also be power-washed; do not exceed 1500 psi.
CARE: Poly lumber requires no special storage or covers during the winter months, although you can protect it with patio furniture covers if desired.
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