Many plastics degrade over time when left in the sun. This is because the UV rays in sunlight may induce a photochemical effect in the plastics that will eventually cause them to crack or disintegrate. People may therefore prefer to use stainless steel for boating supplies and other marine hardware.
However, steel presents its own set of challenges owing to corrosion hastened by the saline environment, so don't count out plastics just yet. In fact, high performance plastics have been known to outlast steel, even in areas with high exposure to UV radiation. Plus, choosing the right materials and shielding them will keep them in good condition for a long time. If you own marine hardware with plastic components, here are some tips to keep them effective under the sun.
Use high performance plastics.
High performance plastics have a variety of extraordinary properties that make them useful in many situations. Their high resistance to thermal and mechanical pressure make them great substitutes for metal in marine hardware. They are able to handle high temperatures in the sun that could cause warping in ordinary plastic. Fluoropolymers such as PVDF, PTFE, and PEEK are particularly good options. They have extremely strong molecular bonds that are able to withstand UV light exposure. There is literally no place on earth with enough UV radiation to break their bonds. For this reason, fluoropolymers can last for decades.
Apply UV reflective paint, and use dark-pigment plastic.
Applying UV reflective paints on your plastic marine hardware will greatly prolong its life. By reflecting most of the UV rays, only a small portion is able to penetrate the plastic and cause harm. Also remember to use plastics that are darkly pigmented. Energy from the sun's rays weakens the chemical bonds in plastic and penetrates layer by layer. Dark pigments in the plastic will limit the penetration of UV rays. The darker and more opaque it is, the longer it will last.
Ensure your plastic is pure.
When impurities are present in plastic, they absorb UV rays and trap them in your hardware. This gives the UV radiation a longer time frame to break down molecular bonds. Additionally, impurities may create free radicals within the plastic that break down chemical bonds. For this reason, use the highest quality plastics for your marine hardware that have little or no impurities. It's a good idea to limit your purchases to manufacturers committed to quality control.