(Petro)chemicals: who needs them?

Imagine what it would be like to live a day without using, wearing or touching chemical-based objects. Not that easy – chemistry is an indispensable part of modern life. Computers are filled with polypropylene, cars, household machines and electronic devices are constructed of components with petrochemicals, and food is packed in plastic.

Two science journalists of ICIS Chemical Business tried to live without petrochemicals for a week. Andy Brice, who is the expert of the Xperimania chat “(Petro)chemicals – who needs them?” on 20 January 2009, decided to avoid polypropylene products for a week. That meant he could forget about using shampoo, deodorant or toothpaste because of their containers, or relying on his stereo alarm to wake up, as the speakers are made of polypropylene. The experiment was very challenging – if not impossible.
Read more about Andy’s experiment (in English)

Andy’s colleague, logistics/chemical profile editor Elaine Burridge, tried to do without plastic food packaging for seven days. Plastic packaging is used for many purposes: not only for branding the products, but also e.g. for prolonging its shelf life. Elaine’s easy experiment turned out to be a real challenge, as she needed to avoid products such as cheese, most meat, yoghurts, cereals, and pasta among others, since they come in plastics-based packages.
Read more about Elaine’s challenge (in English)

In a recent video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28MxRV8WYWg) produced by Federchimica (the Italian Chemical Federation) the main character wakes up in a world without chemistry, and realises that most of the objects around him have disappeared.

But the days without chemistry are not so far behind us: petrochemistry is a recently new science as the industry was fully developed only after World War II, when more costly and often less efficiently produced materials were replaced by synthetic materials. Because of chemistry’s proximity to our daily lives, strict legislation requires the industry to ensure the safety of its products. In many ways and with many applications connected to our day-to-day activities, chemistry has made our lives more comfortable, longer and safer.