This Is Plastics: Plastics Promote Safe and Sustainable Holiday Travel


Plastics Promote Safe and Sustainable Holiday Travel

Plastics make long-distance travel more sustainable and keep travelers safe and comfortable through the holidays.


As the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, holiday travel in 2022 is expected to surpass even pre-pandemic levels: nearly half of all consumers  report plans to travel during the upcoming holiday season. Whether by planes, trains or automobiles, plastics optimize travelers’ experiences by ensuring efficiency, safety and comfort as they travel across the globe to see loved ones—all while promoting sustainability within the transportation sector.

Plastics allow travelers to pack sustainably

Consumers are increasingly seeking out sustainable, yet high-quality, options when traveling. Many companies, such as Solgaard, meet this demand by providing sustainable packing options, including suitcases made from recycled plastics. Since 2017, Solgaard has incorporated plastics recovered from beaches and waterways into its supply chain, using up to 60 percent recycled polycarbonate in its luggage products and diverting nearly 1 million pounds of plastic from landfills to date. Recycled polycarbonate’s strength and durability allow suitcase shells to endure wear and tear that can occur while traveling without compromising product quality. Inside suitcases, companies like personal bag manufacturer Matt and Nat also leverage the power of plastics to produce sustainable toiletry cases with interior liners made out of 100 percent recycled plastic bottles—an effort with recycling capabilities of up to nearly 10 million plastic bottles every year. These innovators demonstrate plastics’ endless potential and underscore the need for a circular economy that prioritizes material recovery, not waste.

Plastics keep people safe and secure while traveling

Plastics also help promote safety across multiple modes of travel. At all U.S. airports, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires that travelers place their toiletries in clear plastic bags for security, a lightweight and low-cost travel solution for consumers that allows TSA agents to easily flag any hazardous substances. As an alternative to the traditional TSA security process, the increasingly popular CLEAR security system also uses plastics to securely verify travelers’ identities through biometric scanning. Fingerprint scanners often rely on silicon-based technology, a cost-effective and high-performing plastic, to create compact and flexible fingerprint sensors. Plastic applications in fingerprint scanners also provide a wide, flexible surface that can collect reliable fingerprint information and ensure tighter airport security.

Beyond airports, plastics advance safety in trains and cars. To meet strict fire safety standards, European railway companies use flame-resistant thermoplastics on the exterior and interior of trains to protect passengers from potential fires while on board. Plastic railway brake shoes, which ensure trains maintain safe speeds and facilitate proper brake system function, have become more popular than steel or iron options, as they are more durable and produce less noise when engaged. On the road, car seatbelts are often made of 100 percent polyester, a durable material that can handle tension force of up to 6,000 pounds. Airbags, which reduce the risk of injury in the event of an accident, are made from lightweight nylon, a durable but flexible plastic polymer that allows them to neatly fold into tight vehicle compartments. No matter the transportation method, plastics are an important part of keeping travelers safe.

Plastics promote comfort and sustainability while traveling

Plastics enable a comfortable, sustainable travel experience. Airlines have developed essentials made from recycled plastics, such as LATAM Airlines’ socks and sleep masks, American Airlines’ pajama sets and Delta Airlines’ pillow and duvet sets. Amtrak now covers trains’ interior cushions with synthetic leather made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and polyurethane (PU) plastic, a sustainable alternative to cow-skin leather that cuts production emissions by nearly seven times. Beyond this benefit, People for Urban Progress (PUP), an Indianapolis-based nonprofit, uses repurposed Amtrak seat covers to create stylish bags, promoting the circular plastics economy. In cars, polyurethane interior seating and polypropylene carpets—among many other applications—lessen vehicles’ weight, helping reduce transportation emissions and fuel consumption while providing sleek, comfortable auto  designs.

From sustainable packing solutions to safe and comfortable transit, plastics play a key role in each step of a traveler’s journey this holiday season. Across countless transportation applications, plastics enable companies to achieve goals that ensure environmental benefits and uncompromising sustainability simultaneously, all without compromising high performance.

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