Plastic VS Polyurethane: What Is Better To Use?

When running a manufacturing business, you’re always trying to find new ways to be efficient in your processes while saving time, money, frustration, and even the planet (while you’re at it). 

That’s a lot to be responsible for—but it doesn’t have to be stressful. If you use the right materials, you can do all that and more. This brings us to a topic that can be confusing, so we thought we’d clear it up:should you use plastic or polyurethane? 

Some think these can be used interchangeably, but polyurethane is not a true plastic—as is often assumed. Here are some ways they’re different, and why you may prefer to use polyurethane at work going forward.

Get to (Really) Know Polyurethane: Clearing Up the Rumors

For starters—and before we get into the benefits of one over another—polyurethane can get a bad rep, since some people confuse the two and think they’re one and the same. It’s important to note that most plastics shown in anti-pollution campaigns across the internet are thermoplastics which can indeed be harmful to the environment. When we say the majority, we mean it—in photos of plastics floating in the ocean, over 95% are thermoplastics. 

Polyurethanes, however, actually account for a mere 2%—or less—of all waste detected in ocean surveys. That’s why it’s critical to understand why these two substances are so different. Let’s learn more about why one may be better for your wallet, for preventing slowdowns in your processes, and for the earth at large.

Advantages of Switching to Polyurethane

Stated by a urethane manufacturer, the chemical makeup of polyurethane features molecular cross-linking that makes it far more resilient in heavy-duty applications than plastic. Polyurethane materials generally last longer than popular thermoplastic equivalents. 

This is great, because it minimizes the amount of polyurethane getting into the waste stream right at the source. It’s also more flexible and durable than its plastic alternative.

Polyurethane can also be recycled in several ways. You can return parts to their pre-polymer state with chemical reactions, and in the long run, polyurethane parts are more cost-effective simply due to their long lifespan. 

Not to mention, plastics will break when pushed to their limits, while polyurethanes often impress engineers when with their tolerances. Their elasticity makes for better shock absorption during impact, they’re resistant to abrasions caused by friction, and—although there are temperature limits—they hold up better in harsh environments than plastic.

And you don’t have to worry about polyurethane breaking down in the environment, since it won’t break down into individual polymer strands. Instead, the molecules released are almost exclusively inert compounds which don’t accumulate toxicity or react in natural environments. In fact, scientists have found microorganisms that break down polyurethane products in a surprisingly eco-friendly way.

Recapping What We Learned

As it turns out, polyurethane is better than plastic when you want to reduce your manufacturing facilities’ ecological footprint—and for a slew of other reasons. If you want something that holds up and costs less, that will help your community while lowering costs, this is the way to go. Stay ahead of the times and consider switching to polyurethane: a better plastic alternative.

Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of and I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.