While oil is usually associated with the boilers and furnaces that heat our homes or gasoline used to power our vehicles, it’s actually used to make much more commonplace items, too. Some of them might surprise you.
Refineries emit about 527,000 tons of harmful carbon pollution annually, a significant contribution to rising temperatures. If we want to reduce our reliance on oil, it’s important to recognize just how many products contain oil, including chemicals derived from the crude oil produced in oil refineries.
Here are five unexpected products that come from oil:
The plastic containers holding your morning coffee? The bottle that holds your favorite shampoo? Those are likely derived from oil. Synthetic plastic, the most common type of plastic, is frequently synthesized with crude oil. Crude oil is naturally occurring, liquid petroleum that is drilled from the Earth’s crust. Refining crude oil produces a variety of petroleum products that are made into chemicals. This process makes two of the most prevalent single-use plastics: polyethylene and polypropylene.
Long before your favorite clothes entered your wardrobe, they may have originated in an oil refinery. Synthetic fabrics like acrylic, nylon, polyester, and spandex are made from petroleum-based fibers. In production, crude oil is refined into polymers (synthetic substances made of large molecules) that are melted and combined with various chemicals to create fabric-like material. The material is then dyed, printed, or weaved to create clothes in an array of colors, patterns, and textures.
Have you ever wondered how you can chew gum for hours and it never breaks down? That’s because it is often made from a synthetic alternative to natural rubber called isobutylene, which prevents the gum from deteriorating. And Isobutylene is — you guessed it — derived from crude oil. It is mixed with sweeteners, flavoring, preservatives, and softeners to form the gum base for a variety of chewing gums, including Wrigley’s, Trident, and Extra.
Now that you’ve spit out your chewing gum, you may be itching to brush your teeth. Well, strangely, your toothpaste likely also comes from oil. Many toothpaste companies use a petroleum derivative called poloxamer 407 to help their products dissolve in water. Toothpaste also contains sodium saccharin, an artificial sweetener that kills plaque, which is also sourced from petroleum. Toothpaste and mouthwash even get their vibrant, minty blue color from dyes that contain oil-based chemicals.
You might not consider the ingredients in your lipstick as you swipe it on your lips before you dash out the door. Surprisingly, most lipsticks contain ingredients derived from oil. Petroleum jelly, which also comes from oil, is a common ingredient that keeps lipstick moist and protects your lips from UV rays.