This Is Plastics: Plastics Help Communities Cope with Winter Weather


Plastics Help Communities Cope with Winter Weather

Learn how using plastics to remove snow benefits the economy and keeps communities safe—all while remaining a low-cost solution.


When snow strikes, plastics help life return to normal. Learn how using plastics to remove snow benefits the economy and keeps communities safe—all while remaining a low-cost solution.

Nearly 70% of the U.S. population lives in areas that receive five or more inches of snow annually, which impacts consumers and businesses, both economically and in terms of safety. Winter storms can cost states up to $700 million for just one day of shutdown due to lost wages, productivity and retail sales.

Data from the U.S. Department of Transportation indicates that nearly a quarter of all weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy roads, injuring nearly 120,000 people per year. In fact, some cities pay out nearly $7 million in liability claims per year, as citizens repeatedly fall on icy sidewalks. Plastics are the perfect match for cleaning up winter snowstorms, keeping the public safe and getting consumers back on the road—all while reducing waste and benefiting the environment.

Plastics help governments combat snow and ice

Industrial snowplows often utilize polyurethane plow edges to cut through snow and ice safely and effectively. As durable as steel but as flexible as rubber, polyurethane—a plastic polymer—provides a more resilient option for snowplow equipment, having a lifespan up to five times longer than rubber alternatives and reducing replacement frequency. In fact, polyurethane is becoming the preferred snowplow edge material for many municipalities, and some even require it, given its ability to move easily over surfaces, cause less damage and reduce noise. Reduced road damage also means a decrease in the need for repair and reconstruction, avoiding emissions associated with construction equipment and resulting traffic disruption.

In addition to roadways, airports heavily utilize polyurethane-edged plows to get runways up and running after winter storms. In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommends using plows equipped with polyurethane edges to maximize snow removal while minimizing damage. Considering snow-related flight cancellations can cost airlines and passengers billions of dollars, expedient and effective snow removal is critical for airports around the country and across the globe. As an added environmental benefit, polyurethane-edged plows reduce contamination when compared to metal alternatives, which often leave behind metal shavings that result from ground-plow contact. Thus, plastics help preserve roads’ cleanliness while ensuring they’re safe for travel.

Using plastics for personal snow removal

Beyond industrial-level snow removal, plastics play a significant role in helping everyday neighborhoods bounce back after storms and blizzards. Plastic shovels are lighter and easier to operate than metal shovels, while still offering strength and durability against snow and ice and providing a great option for residential driveway and sidewalk clearing. It’s even recommended that senior citizens select lightweight plastic shovels to minimize strain and discomfort. In 2021, Better Homes & Gardens named a polycarbonate shovel the “Best Snow Shovel for Seniors,” and the magazine’s “Best Overall Snow Shovel” is made from plastic, too. As manual shoveling is the most environmentally beneficial form of snow removal, plastic is key to helping consumers be effective and sustainable when winter storms hit. Off the ground, polyester roof rakes present an equally lightweight, high-performing option for clearing snow off roofs—which can prevent roof damage caused by heavy snow loads and ice dams.

Plastics are also essential for clearing snow off cars. For glass surfaces, like windows and windshields, plastic scrapers efficiently remove snow and ice without causing scratches or cracks. The New York Times’ “best ice scraper and snow brush” of 2021 features both a plastic scraper blade and plastic bristles, allowing drivers to remove snow and ice without damaging their vehicles. Even better, quality plastic scrapers are affordable at a typical price of $20 or less, ensuring this vital snow equipment is broadly accessible. Whether an early-morning school drop-off or a regular morning commute, plastic scrapers are essential to making vehicles drivable and safe following extreme winter weather.

Plastic protects critical substances for ice removal

While vital to getting cars back on the road and planes back in the skies, plastics also play a role in another critical component of both industrial- and personal-scale snow and ice removal: ice melt. City snow removal teams and citizens alike often sprinkle salt solutions on surfaces to accelerate melting of snow and ice. These substances, however, are vulnerable to sunlight and moisture, and must be stored properly. Accordingly, several kinds of ice melt are sold in secure, air-tight plastic containers that prevent product waste due to summer-month melting or other damage, while also safely securing these substances from children and pets.

From big city plows to the neighbor that graciously shovels your driveway—and more—plastics help communities cope with winter weather events. Thanks to plastics’ facilitation of effective, efficient snow removal, we can all go walking in a winter wonderland with less worry, more safety, and more mobility.

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