Plastic is a material made up of organic or synthetic compounds that have the property of being malleable and therefore can be molded into solid objects of various shapes. This property gives plastics a wide variety of applications. Their 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.
The plastics industry begins with the development of the first thermoset plastics by Baekeland in 1909. Baekeland produced the first synthetic polymer and also developed 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. Baekeland’s first synthetic polymer is called bakelite.
Where plastic comes from
– Polyethylene (HDPE) (high density, low density, linear low density, etc.): It is used to create various products such as: bags, cling wrap, flexible bottles, toys, tubes, juice and milk containers, etc.
– Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): It is mainly used in specific fields such as construction and medicine. In the manufacture of flexible plastics for medical devices, and to cover floors, ceilings, or to insulate electrical cables.
– Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET): This variant is mainly used for bottled liquids such as soft drinks, milk, juices, chemicals, etc. It is one of the most popular plastics at international level.
Physical properties of plastic
The environment is sensitive to certain plastic containers and packaging. It is therefore essential to identify them in order to be able to take advantage of those that do not have a harmful impact and to know how to differentiate plastic recycling.
It is distinguished by its greater thickness and rigidity, which makes it more resistant to both heat and cold. It is used to manufacture dairy bottles, carafes, detergents, plastic bags… It is recyclable and can be used to make flower pots or garbage containers. It is also reusable if it is in optimal hygienic conditions.
It stands out for being a very safe material. Hence it is present in packaging such as water bottles, supermarket bags, plastic wrapping and gloves. It can be recycled, especially as a bag.
It is widely used in cafeterias and fast food restaurants because, in particular, it is found in hamburger containers, disposable cups for hot drinks, cutlery and ice cream tubs. It is highly contaminated, so it should not be reused to contain other food. However, it can be recycled because it is suitable for making plastic joists or flower pots.
Characteristics of plastics
Plastic is a material used in countless products and applications. Since it was invented more than a century ago, this material has become the main element in the manufacture of toys, furniture, kitchen utensils, footwear, etc.
At first glance they may all seem the same, but nothing could be further from the truth. Each plastic is a world of its own and special care must be taken when using them, as they can be very dangerous in terms of toxicity.
Risks: Depending on the temperatures to which it is subjected or its repeated use (filling of water bottles) it can release antimony and phthalate. It may seem alarming but it is not so much, since the concentrations necessary for it to affect our health are far from those measured in studies of this plastic.
Risks: The main contaminants, and although they do not affect us directly, is the amount of toxic products that are used in its manufacture and that result after its use. These toxics are, among others, lead, dioxin, ethylene vinyl chloride, etc.