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Last updated date: 17th Apr 2024
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In 1846, the renowned German chemist Christian Schonbein discovered plastic. Plastics have actually been mistakenly identified. In his kitchen, Christian was experimenting, and he accidentally spilled a mixture of nitric acid and sulphuric acid. He took a cloth to mop up the solution (a mixture of nitric and sulphuric acid) and placed it over the stove after moping. After some time, the fabric vanished and got name plastic. In this article, you will study what is plastic, different types of plastic,  properties of plastic, and recycling of plastic.

What is Plastic?

Plastic is defined as a material that contains an organic substance of greater molecular weight as an important ingredient. It is also characterized as polymers with long chains of carbon. All plastics are said to be polymers. 

The word  plastic was derived in Greek from the word 'Plastikos' which means 'to mold.' Fossil fuels have hydrogen and carbon (hydrocarbon) containing compounds that act as building blocks for long polymer molecules. Such building blocks are referred to as monomers, which bind together to form long chains of carbon called polymers.

Types of Plastic and Their Uses

There are two different types of plastic

  1. Thermoplastic

plastics that are easy to bend when heated.  Thermoplastics include linear polymers and a mixture of linear and cross-linked polymers. For instance, PVC, nylon, polythene, etc.

  1. Thermosetting: 

Plastics that, once molded, can not be softened again by heating. Heavily cross-linked polymers fall into the thermosetting plastics group. Bakelite, melamine, etc. Example: Bakelite is used to make electrical switches, while floor tiles use melamine.

Speaking about the variations between thermoplastic and thermosetting plastic, the key differentiating factor between the two is that thermoplastic products usually have low melting points, meaning they can be quickly remolded or recycled further. 

The thermosetting plastic, on the other hand, is quite the contrary. They can withstand high temperatures and, even with the application of heat, can not be reformed or recycled once hardened. In any event, let's take a look at some of the major differences below between these two compounds.



Synthesized by the process known as addition polymerization

Synthesized by the process known as condensation polymer.

Thermoplastic is processed by injection molding, extrusion process, blow molding, thermoforming process, and rotational molding.

Thermosetting Plastic is processed by compression molding, reaction injection molding.

There are secondary bonds in thermoplastics between molecular chains.

There are primary bonds between molecular chains in thermosetting plastics and strong cross-links hold them together.

They have a low melting point and tensile strength

They have a high melting point and high tensile strength

They have low molecular weight.

They have high molecular weight.

Types of Plastic Materials

 Examples of thermoplastics are listed below.

  1. Polystyrene

  2. Teflon

  3. Acrylic

  4. Nylon

Examples of thermosetting polymers include:

  1. Vulcanized rubber

  2. Bakelite

  3. Polyurethane

  4. Epoxy resin

  5. Vinyl ester resin

Plastic Material Properties

Here are some plastic material properties-

  • They are light weighted.

  • They are highly resistant to chemicals.

  • They are high electrical strength.

  • They can easily be molded to desired shape and size.

  • They can be made transparent or colored.

  • Operations like drilling, sawing, and punching can be done on plastics.

  • They are cheap as compared to metals.

  • They are strong and ductile

  • They are poor conductors of electricity.

  • Plastic resists corrosion.

Recycling of Plastic

Plastic recycling is very significant. If they are not recycled at the right time, they are mixed with other chemicals or products, making them harder to recycle and a source of pollution. 

They are non-biodegradable, and the microbial effect does not decompose them. 

It is important to use biopolymers or biodegradable polymers to prevent this.

Did You Know?

In a landfill, plastic takes up to 1,000 years to decay. It takes 88 percent less energy to recycle plastic than to produce plastic from raw materials. Every year, enough plastic is thrown away to orbit the Earth four times. Each year, Americans throw 35 billion plastic bottles away.

FAQs on Plastics

Question: What's so Terrible about Plastic?

Answer: Ingesting plastic has life-threatening effects on animals - and people ultimately end up digesting this plastic. According to a recent Belgian study, Britons who eat fish are at risk of eating 11,000 pieces of plastic per year. And in less than a year, half of all the plastic generated becomes garbage.

Question: What is Plastic Made of?

Answer: By a process of polymerization or polycondensation, plastics are made from natural materials such as cellulose, coal, natural gas, salt, and crude oil. Plastics are derived from raw, organic materials such as cellulose, coal, natural gas, salt, and, of course, crude oil.

Question: How Do Animals Die When they Eat Plastic?

Answer: Animals who ingest plastic accidentally, suffer and sometimes die as a result of it. The stomach is packed with swallowed plastic and this, not surprisingly, decreases the sensation of hunger. Animals drink less, gain less energy, and weaken.