What are Plastics?
Plastics are a broad category of semi-synthetic or synthetic substances that contain polymers as their primary component. Plasticity during manufacturing allows the plastic to be moulded, extruded, or pressed into solid objects of various shapes. It allows the material to adapt accordingly and is useful in a wide range of applications.
This adaptability, combined with a wide range of advantageous properties such as lightweight, durability, and flexibility, as well as low-cost manufacturing methods, has contributed to widespread acceptance in modern society. The majority of modern plastics are derived from petrochemicals derived from fossil fuels such as natural gas or petroleum. The most recent plastic manufacturing processes, on the other hand, use alternatives made from renewable materials such as corn or cotton derivatives.
Table of Contents
Properties of Plastics
- Plastics are commonly solids. They can be amorphous, crystalline, or semi crystalline solids (crystallites).
- Plastics are typically poor heat and electricity conductors. Most are dielectrically strong insulators.
- Glassy polymers are typically stiff (e.g., polystyrene). Thin sheets of these polymers, on the other hand, can be used as films (e.g., polyethylene).
- When stressed, nearly all plastics exhibit elongation that does not recover after the stress is removed. This is referred to as “creep.”
- Plastics are typically long-lasting and degrade at a slow rate.
Uses of Plastics
- There is a significant amount of plastic in television, sound system, cell phone, vacuum cleaner, and most likely in the plastic foam in the furniture.
- Plastic chair or bar stool seats, acrylic composite countertops, PTFE linings in nonstick cooking pans, and plastic plumbing in the water system.
Automotive and Transport
Plastics have contributed to many of the innovations in automotive design, including improvements in safety, performance, and fuel efficiency.
Plastics are widely used in trains, planes, automobiles, and even ships, satellites, and space stations. Bumpers, dashboards, engine components, seating, and doors are just a few examples.
Plastics are being used in a number of ways in the construction field. They have a high degree of versatility and combine excellent strength-to-weight ratio, durability, cost-effectiveness, low maintenance, and corrosion resistance, making plastics an economically appealing choice in the construction industry.
- Conduit and Piping
- Cladding and Profiles – Cladding and profiles for windows, doors, coving and skirting.
- Gaskets and seals
A variety of plastics are used to package, deliver, store, and serve food and beverages. Plastics used in food packaging are chosen for their performance: they are inert and chemically resistant to both the outside environment and the foods and beverages themselves.
- Many of today’s plastic containers and wraps are specially designed to withstand microwave heating temperatures.
- Many plastic food containers have the added benefit of being able to safely transition from freezer to microwave to dishwasher.
Sports Safety Gear
- Sports safety equipment are lighter and stronger, such as plastic helmets, mouth guards, goggles, and protective padding, to keep everyone safe.
- Moulded, shock-absorbent plastic foam keeps feet stable and supported, and tough plastic shells covering helmets and pads protect heads, joints, and bones.
Plastics have been widely used in the manufacture of medical tools and devices such as surgical gloves, syringes, insulin pens, IV tubes, catheters, inflatable splints, blood bags, tubing, dialysis machines, heart valves, artificial limbs, and wound dressing, among others.
Facts about Plastics
- Bakelite, the first completely synthetic plastic, was created in 1907 by Leo Baekeland. In addition, he coined the term “plastics.”
- The term “plastic” is derived from the Greek word plastikos, which means “able to be shaped or moulded.”
- Packaging accounts for roughly one-third of all plastic produced. A third of the space is dedicated to siding and piping.
- In general, pure plastics are insoluble in water and nontoxic. Many of the additives in plastics, however, are toxic and may leach into the environment. Phthalates are an example of a toxic additive. When nontoxic polymers are heated, they may degrade into chemicals.
Frequently Asked Questions on Applications of Plastics
What are the benefits and drawbacks of plastic?
The benefits and drawbacks of plastic are as follows:
- Plastics are more flexible and less expensive than metals.
- Plastics are extremely durable and can last for an extended period of time.
- Plastic manufacturing is much faster than metal manufacturing.
- The natural decomposition of plastics takes 400 to 1000 years, and only a few types of plastics are biodegradable.
- Plastic materials pollute water bodies such as oceans, seas, and lakes, killing marine animals.
- On a daily basis, many animals consume plastic products and die as a result.
- Plastic production and recycling both emit harmful gases and residues that pollute the air, water, and soil.
Where is the most plastic used?
Every year, over 70 million tonnes of thermoplastics are used in textiles, primarily in clothing and carpeting.
What role does plastic play in the economy?
Plastic has many direct economic benefits and can help with resource efficiency. It reduces food waste by extending the shelf life of food, and its lightweight reduces fuel consumption when transporting goods.
Why should we stay away from plastic?
Plastics should be avoided because they are non-biodegradable. They take several years to decompose after being introduced into the environment. Plastics pollute the environment.
Who invented plastic?
Leo Baekeland, a Belgian chemist and astute marketer, invented the first fully synthetic plastic in 1907.