What are properties of plastic?

How the physical properties of plastic are explained

Plastic is easy to mold when exposed to high temperatures, although if the temperature is too high it can decompose. For this reason, plastic is said to possess properties of flexibility and elasticity as it adapts to certain shapes.

Once it reaches its final form, plastic is quite resistant and difficult to degrade. Its uses are varied, it is used for the construction of bottles, tables, vases, among others.

In 1860, in a contest whose reward was 10,000 dollars, John Wesley Hyatt proposed dissolving cellulose in a solution of ethanol and camphor, and obtained celluloid (considered the first thermoplastic) with this simple process. At the time, the search was on for a substitute for natural ivory (which was used to make, for example, billiard balls).

Plastic is resistant to deterioration. However, it is important to mention that resistance is often not synonymous with sanitation. A plastic bottle may or may not be reusable, depending on the type of plastic from which the bottle is made. Each plastic object should have a label that specifies whether it is reusable or not.


Plastic is a material made up of organic or synthetic compounds that have the property of being malleable and can therefore be molded into solid objects of various shapes. This property gives plastics a wide variety of applications.[1] Its name derives from plasticity, a property of materials, which refers to the ability to deform without breaking.

In 1839 Goodyear in the United States and Hancock in England developed in parallel the vulcanization of rubber, i.e. the hardening of rubber and its increased resistance to cold. This was the beginning of the commercial success of thermosetting polymers.[8] The following year, in 1839, Goodyear in the USA and Hancock in England developed the vulcanization of rubber.

The plastics industry begins with the development of the first thermoset plastics by Baekeland in 1909. Baekeland produces the first synthetic polymer and also develops the plastic molding process, which enabled him to produce various articles of commerce. These early plastics were named Bakelite in honor of their discoverer. Bakelite is formed by a condensation reaction of phenol with formaldehyde.[9] Baekeland’s first synthetic polymer is called bakelite.

Characteristics and properties of plastic

Today, most plastic water and soft drink bottles are made from a polymer called polyethylene terephthalate or PET. This polymer began to be used in the manufacture of bottles from 1976 onwards because of its excellent suitability as a beverage container.

In addition to mineral water and carbonated beverages, PET plastic bottles also serve as packaging for products such as cooking oils, juices, teas, isotonic beverages, wines and spirits, and as packaging for other products such as toys.

By recycling plastic bottles, we save a considerable amount of oil – one ton of oil for every two tons of plastic recycled – and we achieve great energy and economic savings, as well as a clear benefit for the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In this way we also reduce the amount of waste that accumulates in landfills. To give you an idea, one ton of recycled PET plastic is equivalent to saving between 25 and 35 square meters of landfill space, or 3.32 tons of CO2 that would have been emitted had it not been for recycling.

All plastics have the same properties

Plastics are polymers obtained from petroleum. Both because of their properties (they are malleable, low density, impermeable and good insulators), and because they are easy to produce and very low cost, they are one of the most widely used products in society.

We live surrounded by plastics that in previous times were not necessary for everyday life, but that, nowadays, we use for everything: from food, household or sanitary containers, to materials for buildings, transportation, electronic devices and agriculture.

Duration: 2 sessions/ 2 hoursGrouping: groups of 3/4 peopleToday we can say that we live in a plastic society. We look at the following image to get an idea of the plastic we use and that surrounds us.

Why do we use so much plastic? As we have indicated, this material has properties that have facilitated its use in many areas of life. What are these properties? Let’s analyze them by working with packaging.