’Twas the week before Christmas, when I looked all around
And realized it’s the chemical industry that makes cheer abound
The manufacturing of chemicals and the chemistry of their applications make up the vast majority of the products we rely on every day. And the holidays are no exception.
Whether you’re trimming the tree, wrapping presents or enjoying time with loved ones, consider how the chemical industry plays a role in that holiday magic.
1. Christmas trees: Increasingly, consumers are switching to synthetic or artificial trees as an environmentally conscious choice or for the ease of assembly and maintenance. Synthetic trees rely on chemical engineering and are typically made from polyvinyl chloride, steel and aluminum.
2. Candles and essential oils: If you go the synthetic tree route but miss the smell of pine, a scented candle or oil diffuser created by chemistry can remedy that. Most candles are made from a combination of hydrogen and carbon, and most essential oils consist of terpenoid molecules that are modified to control evaporation, dissolve rates and shelf life.
3. Ornaments: Most of our tree accessories are made from glass with a coating called silvering solution that is applied to the inside to create that cheery glow. The tops of ornaments and the hooks used to attach them are often made of tin or aluminum.
4. Lights: With copper for the wiring, argon for the casing, tungsten for the filament and polyvinyl chloride for the wire covering, the lights that trim your tree and light up Candy Lane are a fine example of chemistry from the inside out.
5. Wrapping paper: Manufactured from wood pulp, wrapping paper is finished with pigments, inks and dyes that make up the bright patterns.
6. Toys: As you navigate the Legos strewn about the living room floor or wrestle to release a new toy from protective packaging, think fondly of the chemical industry. Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene is a sturdy and tough plastic used to make many classic plastic toys, and you can thank low-density polyethylene for the lightweight and flexible protective packaging that safeguarded that newly cherished toy from manufacturer to play time.
7. Christmas dinnerware: Hosting this year? Disposable dinnerware makes cleanup a snap, and much of it is recyclable. Check for the No. 6 recycling label, so these holiday time-savers can be put to use again!
8. Fireplace cheer for the fire-starting challenged: Starter logs, which are often made of recycled materials, wax and the polysaccharide cellulose, are a helpful tool for building a fire. And for those who simply wish to flip a switch, your cheer is brought to you via propane, which can be extracted from natural gas liquids found here in Pennsylvania. Propane is also a foundational chemical used as a petrochemical feedstock for a variety of applications and products.
9. Connecting with loved ones far and near: From rare earth metals in the glass display to epoxy resins for printed circuit boards and polymer coatings to protect devices from
moisture and dirt, chemistry is a key part of our homes and mobile devices that keeps us connected so we can still celebrate with loved ones and share in the holiday spirit when distance keeps us apart.
Not only does the chemical industry provide the products we use every day, but it is one of the largest manufacturing industries in the world.
From PCIC and the approximately 80,000 chemical industry employees in Pennsylvania, we’re proud to provide the chemistry and products that help make the season merry and bright. We wish you a very happy holiday!