1. What is silicone plastic?
It is a man-made polymer, but instead of plastic that is made up of carbon, it has a backbone of silicon and oxygen. Silicone is the polymer and silicon, spelled without the “e” on the end, is an ingredient in silicone. Silicon is an element found in silica, i.e., sand, one of the most common materials on earth.
However, to make silicone, silicon is extracted from silica (it rarely exists by itself in nature) and passed through hydrocarbons to create a new polymer with an inorganic silicon-oxygen backbone and carbon-based side groups.
While the silicon might come from a relatively benign and plentiful resource like sand, the hydrocarbons in silicone come from fossil sources like petroleum and natural gas. So silicone is a kind of hybrid material.
2. How many kinds of plastics are there?
It’s practically impossible to list the different kinds of plastics out there: from being used in our favourite mobile devices to protecting the food we love from oxygen, a variety of plastics are used for various purposes that meet a number of our daily needs.
Plastics are a mix of chemistry and engineering and as we innovate, we can create more plastics to help us do more things. However, here are some common types.
Thermoplastics are plastics that can be molded again and again when heated. On the other hand, thermosetting polymers or thermosets can take shape only once; after they solidify, they stay solid.
Thermosets and Polystyrene are completely amorphous, meaning they don’t have a clearly defined shape or form. There are others like Polypropylene and Polyethylene that are crystalline and partially amorphous, i.e. they have a melting point, the temperatures above which the intermolecular forces are overcome and the extent of molecular flexibility is substantially increased.
Then there are Conductive Polymers that help conduct electricity, though they’re no match for metals like copper.
Biodegradable Plastics are those that break down upon exposure to ultra-violet radiation, sunlight, bacteria, water or wind abrasion.
There’re also high-performance plastics like Polyepoxide (epoxy) that’s used as an adhesive; Polymethyl methacrylate (acrylic) used for glazing, rear light covers for vehicles and in artistic acrylic paints; and Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTTE), known as Teflon – low-friction, heat-resistant coatings found in non-stick surfaces of utensils and water slides.
3. Can you recycle plastic bottle caps and lids?
For years, we have been told to remove bottle and container caps before recycling. However, that is gradually changing. The recycling industry is now recommending otherwise, though you may want to check with your local recycling program before you replace the lids of bottles you recycle.
The reason consumers were asked to take the cap off is because caps are made from plastic #5 and the bottles they accompany are made from #2. These two varieties melt at different temperatures, and could not be recycled together. One was also believed to be contaminating the other, thereby requiring additional resources to separate them before processing and reducing the value of the material.
Plastic containers with tops on them would not compact properly during the recycling process and could also jam processing equipment. The ones with tightly fastened lids could also explode when the temperature increased, posing a safety risk for recycling workers.
With technological advancements, facilities now have the ability to handle bottles with caps intact. Just a couple of things to consider when you recycle container tops and lids: please crush bottles prior to putting the lid back on and ensure they’re free of any liquid.
4. What is a zero-energy home?
Zero energy homes are just like any home—except better. They are regular grid-tied homes that are so air-tight, well insulated, and energy efficient that they produce as much renewable energy as they consume over the course of a year, leaving the occupants with a net zero energy bill, and a carbon-free home.
A zero energy home is not just a “green home” or a home with solar panels. A zero energy home combines advanced design and superior building systems with energy efficiency and on-site solar panels to produce a better home. Zero energy homes are ultra-comfortable, healthy, quiet, sustainable homes that are affordable to live in.