The chemical industry, manufacturing cleaning products, products for personal hygiene and childcare, making materials for the construction of household appliances and allowing optimal food preservation, has contributed decisively to facilitate household tasks. In primitive economies, 16 hours a day were spent on basic necessities, and in the modern world, only two, due to detergents, easy-to-iron and clean clothes, or frozen foods, for example.
Starting with the kitchen, we find plastic-coated utensils to which food does not adhere, containers and furniture made of the same material, ceramic plates, transparent wrapping films, non-slip trays, internally protected cans and food prepared against the effect. of fungi and bacteria.
If we go to the living room, there are the television, video, a sound player, compact discs, and magnetic tapes … all of them made up of chemical materials, from the interior coating of television screens, to magnetic media, going through compact discs.
And in all the rooms there are elements derived from chemical products: carpets, upholstery, fabrics, pillow fillings, soap, perfumes, paint, adhesives, toys, detergents, insecticides, cosmetics … Look around you and look for an object that cannot be manufactured. chemistry has played an important role … and this exercise can be repeated on the plane, in the car or on the street.
Chemistry dresses us for every occasion: going to the countryside, bathing in the sea, playing sports, climbing a mountain or going to a party. Natural fibers are difficult to modify and are produced in a relatively inefficient way. Synthetic fibers can be altered to meet specific needs and are easily produced in large quantities. Also, natural fibers are not as natural as they seem. Have you seen wool as it is produced by sheep, or what cotton looks like that, having no chemical protection, is attacked by a beetle infestation?
Chemistry also helps us to obtain higher yields in the use of food, allowing its conservation and transport in cold stores, preserving its properties and extending its life, both in slaughterhouses, as in department stores, shops and, for Lastly, in domestic refrigerators and refrigerators. All these devices work with “clean” cryogenic gases and are thermally insulated with synthetic foams.
Finally, the enormous importance of containers, made with chemical products, for the preservation of food should be mentioned. These innocent-looking containers are admirable pieces of technology. They must be light and resistant, and they are made up of numerous different layers of film, each with specific functions and properties. The selective permeability to gases such as carbon dioxide and oxygen, as well as to humidity and light, of polymer-based materials has served to develop packaging with a modified inner atmosphere. If the barrier properties are properly selected, a packaging material can maintain a modified atmosphere within the container, lengthening the so-called “shelf life” of the product.
Dehydrated products must be protected from moisture during storage. Fatty foods must be protected from air to reduce oxidation. Fresh fruit, on the other hand, must breathe, and the gases must circulate in a container. For all these needs, sometimes contradictory, chemistry has the necessary materials.
It also makes “smart packaging” when special features are required. Thus, there are containers, for example, that are manufactured with products that absorb oxygen and remove it from their interior, and others that are composed of temperature-sensitive films and present abrupt changes to the permeability of gases above or below certain temperatures, as a consequence of the change from a crystalline to an amorphous structure due to thermal fluctuation.
It is also important to highlight the importance of plastics in reducing packaging waste. Due to its resistance and its lightness, they allow the development of the main strategy, which consists of reducing it at source, lending itself to recycling and reuse, thus showing its eco-efficiency.