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Polypropylene plastic is usually broken down into three broad categories of usage. These include the automotive plastics industry, packaging plastics, and all other uses combined. Global demand for polypropylene-based products is second only to that of polyethylene, and, as of 2009, 36,500,000 tons of the plastic were produced annually. The bulk of this at 54% went into use in the packaging industry, and the next top demand for polypropylene world supplies has been in automotive assembly, accounting for 15.6% of the total amount produced. Asian nations lead the way in consuming 51.9% of polypropylene plastic produced as of 2009, and China and India in particular are seen as the main global drivers of growth overall.
The low weight and good mechanical properties of polypropylene plastic have made it an ideal material in automotive construction. It reduces the total weight of cars where it is substituted for other interior materials in dashboards, door panels, and cushioning. Since polypropylene plastic has good corrosion and weather resistance, it is also used for exterior moldings and bumpers, and can be pre-colored so that some of the painting work on automobiles is eliminated.
Plastics are widely adopted when they have versatile uses, and polypropylene plastic expands on this by being manufactured to three different ranges of specifications. Homopolymers are general purpose grades of the plastic used in fishing nets, polypropylene carpet, furniture, and more. Block copolymers are versions of the plastic with improved impact and temperature resistance, and are used for polypropylene ropes, artificial grass, and medical devices. Random copolymers have more flexibility and a lower melting point, and are used in polypropylene textiles, upholstery, and bedding.
The packaging industry's use of polypropylene plastic is divided up into flexible and rigid packaging. Polypropylene bags and films use flexible designs of the plastic used in three main packaging industries: food and confections, tobacco, and textiles. The food packaging industry dominates in its consumption of flexible polypropylene. Rigid polypropylene is used to make food crates and pallets, as well as bottles for a wide range of uses and food containers for yogurt.
Among the thousands of other uses for polypropylene in the consumer market, the plastic is incorporated into products in housewares, appliances, and toys. It is made into everything from diapers to lawn and garden equipment and luggage. Despite its versatile uses, however, over 70% of the polypropylene plastic produced for packaging needs goes to package food products.
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