Plastics are organic and can be made from natural products such as cellulose, coal and of course, crude oil.
It is the general common term for a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic materials used across the world. With a broad range of properties including corrosion resistance, electrical resistance, low density and easy mouldability they can be designed to meet the demands of a range of applications from packaging to transportation to electronics and medicine.
The term ‘’plastic’’ is derived from the Greek word ”plastikos” meaning fit for moulding and refers to the material’s malleability, or plasticity during manufacture. This is the very property that allows it to be cast, pressed, or extruded into the vast array of products we see in our daily lives. We use plastic products to help make our lives cleaner, easier, safer and more enjoyable – where would we be without the convenience of plastic bottles, PVC window frames and ducks for the bath!
There are two broad categories of plastic materials: thermoplastics and thermosetting plastics which whilst looking identical, have very different properties: thermoplastics can be heated up to form products and then if these end products are re-heated, the plastic will soften and melt again, Thermoset plastics can be melted and formed, but once they take shape after they have solidified, they stay solid and, unlike thermoplastics cannot be remelted.
As you can see, plastics are a useful choice for many applications because and are seen by some as an answer to many problems. Whilst they are a benefit to many, it should be remembered that the benefits of the stability of plastic make it a long term pollution problem if not treated and managed properly.
Where possible, plastics should be returned through recycling programmes to ensure that this valuable product stays in the loop and remains available for years to come.