This Is Plastics: Plastics Support Summer Sports and Outdoor Activities


Plastics Support Summer Sports and Outdoor Activities

Learn how plastics enhance your favorite summer activities.


Plastics make summer fun possible. From lightweight and affordable sporting goods to apparel and safety equipment, plastics are a critical part of summer days spent in the mountains, oceans and anywhere in between. The affordability, durability and versatility of plastics make them an ideal material for summer gear used in activities like camping, water sports and swimming.

Plastics make summer camping and hiking trips more accessible for all

Plastics are an essential material for summer camping and hiking trips. Necessary equipment such as tents and sleeping bags made with polyester—the most common material for tent fabrics—are more lightweight and water-resistant than traditional cotton alternatives. They are also easier to maintain because they won’t shrink or expand in heavy rain. Moreover, many popular sleeping bag brands use a polyester-based material called Ripstop that is reinforced with heavier threads to prevent tears on outer layers from spreading, improving the lifespan of the sleeping bag and preventing punctures that can reduce the bag’s insulation and effectiveness.

Proper hiking shoes are critical for handling the natural elements like water, mud, rocks and rough surfaces that can cause serious injuries during a hike. Outdoor apparel and shoe companies are increasingly rolling out polyester-based hiking boots and sneakers, which provide a lightweight and more environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional leather hiking boots: cow-skin leather production emits nearly seven times more carbon emissions than polyester-based leather. Polyester-based hiking boots also offer better breathability than traditional leather hiking boots, which help to keep feet cool and socks dry during a hike.

Plastics are essential to keeping water sports safe and fun

Durable plastic equipment is not only necessary for water sports but also increases their affordability and accessibility. For example, plastics play a key role in the surfing industry: surfboards made with polyurethane-based foam can cost as much $700 less than boards made from wood or fiberglass. Unlike other boards, surfboards made from plastics are light and buoyant, making surfing more accessible to surfers at any skill level. Additionally, plastic boards are more durable than fiberglass boards that must be repaired regularly or replaced due to dings or pressure dents. Surfboard manufacturers are also working to make surfboards more sustainable. For instance, Skunkworks Surf Co. formed a partnership with carmaker Jaguar Land Rover to source recycled polyurethane materials from early-stage clay car design models to create hand-crafted surfboards.

In addition to surfing, water sports such as water skiing and motorboat tubing require equipment made from plastics. Inner tubes are often coated with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) to strengthen polyester covers that glide easily on the water while remaining lightweight. Similarly, water skis are coated with polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) to create a smooth ski surface and allow for different colors and designs. Water skis are usually manufactured with a high-density polyurethane foam core that is easily molded into different shapes and creating a buoyant material that helps water skiers reach peak performance. For both tubing and water skiing, tow ropes made of either polypropylene or polyethylene provide a safe and strong connection to the boat while allowing for stretch of about two to three percent of their length. This elasticity helps prevent injury and absorb shock from waves, keeping water sports fun and accessible for all ages.

Plastics allow for summertime fun and competition at the pool

Plastics are essential for summertime pool swimming. First, plastics play a key role in pool design through plastic lane dividers and plastic hardware on pumps and filters, allowing multiple swimmers to swim safely minimize rust on critical pool components. Equipment like snorkels, kickboards and fins are all made from plastics to help swimmers train. Likewise, life jackets made from nylon and plastic foams provide a safer way to swim in a pool while staying comfortable.

In addition to providing safe and essential water equipment, plastics play a key role in swimwear. Swim goggles are made with durable polycarbonate lenses that are 10 times more impact resistant than glass or other materials. Swimmers also use silicone or latex swim caps to protect their hair from chlorine and reduce drag in the water. Swimsuits like Speedo’s LZR Racer suit use nylon and spandex to help swimmers increase their speed in the water, and new innovations, such as Zoggs EcoLast+ fabric, have introduced swimsuits made from recycled plastic bottles.

Summer sports and activities such as swimming, hiking, surfing and boating all rely on plastics to keep people safe while having fun. With plastics, summertime fun is accessible and enjoyable for all ages.

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