Take a look around you; most of the things you see have plastic as a part of the raw materials. Plastic has become an essential raw material used in every sector and industry. Plastics are commonly used because they are more flexible than other materials.
All essential products and items we own contain substantial plastic, including electronics like television, refrigerator, textiles, building and construction materials, packaging, and transportation like cars. You can see that plastic has helped make our lives better.
Humans have been using plastics for a long time, and research says it has been used since the Meso-Americans processed natural rubber in the early 1600 BC. Since then, we have depended greatly on rubber and plastics in all our daily life activities.
However, the development and innovation of thermoplastics did not begin until the early 19th century. Let us take a deep dive into what plastic entails and why it has become an important part of our lives.
What is Plastic?
Plastic is a type of polymer. Polymers are long carbon molecular chains that are bonded to each other. Polymers are made of monomers, monomers are the smallest molecule, and they have to be repeated consistently to form a long chain. So, a monomer is the repetitive unit of a polymer.
Plastics are made from raw materials like oil, natural gas, and plants which are refined into propane and ethane. The propane and ethane are treated with heat, and the process is referred to as cracking. When they are cracked, they are turned into propylene and ethylene.
Propylene and ethylene are monomers that are combined with a catalyst to create a polymer. The resulting polymer is known as fluff, and it looks like a powdered laundry detergent. The polymer is put inside an extruder, where it is melted and transferred into a pipe. As the polymer cools, the plastic is formed.
7 Different Types of Plastics Used in Our Daily Life
There are different types of plastics, and they all have different uses and applications. These different types of plastics are manufactured from different raw materials, and they have different manufacturing processes, making each plastic possess unique properties.
1. Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA)
Polymethyl Methacrylate is also known as acrylic, and it is transparent and strong. It gives a clarity similar to glass but without the risk of it shattering. Acrylic is manufactured through different processes, including HIA (High Impact Acrylic), making acrylic more durable.
Polymethyl Methacrylate has high weather resistance, so it is the preferred choice for outdoor uses. It has become very popular because it can be used in place of glass.
Uses of Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA)
Polymethyl Methacrylate is used for many things because of its durability, and it is a good replacement for glass. Let us look at some of its uses.
1. Sporting Equipment
As surprising as it might sound, the sole of most lightweight running shoes are made from plastic, acrylic to be precise. Time is of the essence in sports, and not a second must be wasted. The durability of acrylic, its lightweight properties make it the perfect choice for the soles of running shoes.
Bike helmets and even the handle of tennis rackets are produced from acrylic. There is a lot of other sporting equipment you do not know are made from Polymethyl Methacrylate.
2. Transparent Non-Glass Uses
It has been proved that acrylic can be used in place of glass, and it is even more durable than glass. As a result, acrylic has become the popular choice to produce bulletproof glass, skylights, and non-glass display cases. Acrylic sheets are also used in the design of LED lights, and it helps maximize the light-emitting potential because of its optical properties.
3. Water-Resistant Paint
Plastic is water-resistant; it does not absorb water. This is one of the major reasons it is used in the production of many materials. If you pour water on plastic, you will see that the water sips off. Acrylic paints are manufactured with this idea in mind.
Acrylic plastic is added to the paint, producing the same effect as a plastic’s surface. When water is poured into the paint, it does not soak into the paint, and it just stays at the top. Car paint is the most common form of acrylic paint.
Corneal transplant surgery is the other name keratoplasty is known as. The surgery is to restore proper eyesight when a case of advanced corneal disease arises. An artificial cornea is used to replace the degenerated cornea. Artificial corneas are produced from Polymethyl Methacrylate. It clarifies vision, protects the inner eye, and is a comfortable fit for a long time to come.
5. Military Uses
The military has used acrylic sheets for a long time, from submarine windows to the portions of the cockpit in an airplane. Acrylic helps in diving deep into the ocean and breaking the sound barrier literally.
Acrylic has properties like adaptability, transparency, and strength under high pressure, making it the preferred choice for military uses. Military equipment must be really strong, and acrylic is very durable, so it is the most used plastic.
2. Polypropylene (PP)
Polypropylene is the second most-produced synthetic plastic in the world. And it is one of the most flexible thermoplastics that man has created. Polypropylene is flexible, durable, resistant to acid, heat resistance, and one of the cheapest plastics. Polypropylene is produced through chain-growth polymerization, and it has a lot of uses.
Uses Of Polypropylene
Polypropylene is very flexible, and it is slowly replacing metals, cellophane, and paper to become the most used material for packaging applications. Polypropylene is cheaper and has superior properties, so it is now the preferred choice for packaging.
Polypropylene is used mostly in the food sector to package food and confectionaries, package tobacco and clothes. Bottles, jars, caps, containers, including disposable cups and yogurt cups, detergents, and toiletries, are packaged using polypropylene.
2. Sports And Fashion Industry
Polypropylene is very resilient and can withstand wear and tear, mold, sun, bacteria, and water, making it the go-choice for the clothing and sports industry. Cynch and tote bags are very durable, sturdy, waterproof, resilient, lightweight, and reusable.
They are manufactured from polypropylene, and they are very popular. Summer beach slippers are also made from polypropylene. A lot of your clothing and accessories are made from polypropylene.
3. Consumer Products
Housewares like carpets, rugs, and mats are produced from polypropylene; the fibers are durable and retain the colors of the housewares. It keeps the colors fresh and vibrant for a long time. Different types of upholstery have polypropylene as an essential material. Toys and luggage are also produced from durable and strong polypropylene.
4. Automobile Industry
Polypropylene is used to manufacture car dashboards, bumpers, film cushioning, interior elements, cladding, film skins, and other parts of an automobile. Many automobile companies have embraced the use of polypropylene to manufacture different parts of their vehicles.
3. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
This is the most versatile type of plastic, and it is the third most-produced synthetic plastic in the world. Polyvinyl Chloride can be produced to have flexible or rigid properties. Polyvinyl Chloride can blend well with other materials, a property other plastics lack.
PVC is very durable and is a material that lasts for a long time, this being the reason it is used in a variety of applications. PVC accounts for about twenty percent of all manufactured plastics in the world.
Uses of Polyvinyl Chloride
PVC is very versatile, and we will take a look at some of its many possible applications.
PVC has been a major raw material in the production of construction products for a long time. PVC’s versatile, durable, lightweight, and strong properties make it ideal for any construction materials. It also has electrical insulation properties and is resistant to flame, making it ideal for cabling applications. PVC is used to produce flooring, fittings, pipes, power cables, telecom cables, data cables, waste systems, to mention a few.
Polyvinyl chloride has been used in the manufacturing of healthcare products for some time now. Its cost efficiency and unparalleled performance properties make it the choice material for surgery, drug delivery, pharmaceuticals, and medical applications.
PVC is used to manufacture inflatable splints, mattresses, bedding covers, blood bags, blood vessels for artificial kidneys, examination, surgical gloves, and endotracheal tubing.
4. Polyethylene Terephthalate
The fourth most-produced synthetic plastic globally is polyethylene terephthalate. And in the polyester family, it is the most common thermoplastic. Polyethylene terephthalate is shatter-proof and is very strong despite being light.
It has a resistance to water and organic materials, and it is also easy to recycle. Polyethylene Terephthalate is also known as PETE or PET.
Uses of Polyethylene Terephthalate
1. Household Item Packaging
PET is a strong, clear, and lightweight plastic used in packaging beverages and foods, especially water, juices, and soft drinks. Almost all bottles of carbonated soft drinks are produced from polyethylene terephthalate.
PET is also the preferred choice for packaging peanut butter, salad dressings, cooking oil, shampoo, window cleaner, mouthwash, and hand wash.
5. Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene (ABS)
Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene is created by polymerizing acrylonitrile and styrene in the presence of polybutadiene, and these three monomers are the constituting materials of BS. This is flexible, robust, highly processable, glossy, and impact resistant. The cost of manufacturing ABS is relatively low.
Uses of Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene (ABS)
1. Production Of Consumer Goods
Many household items and consumer goods like food processors, vacuum cleaners, refrigerator liners are all manufactured from acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene. Electronic and electrical appliances like electronic enclosures and computer keyboards are also a product of ABS. Gardening tools, sports equipment, and even musical instruments are produced from ABS.
6. Polycarbonate (PC)
Polycarbonate is a thermoplastic that is naturally transparent and amorphous. Although polycarbonate is available commercially in different colors, the raw materials used to manufacture it allow it to transmit light at a capacity similar to glass. Polycarbonate plastics are referred to as engineering plastics because they are used for robust materials.
Uses of Polycarbonate
1. Bullet And Impact Resistant Panels And Windows
Polycarbonate plastic provides the resistance needed for safety and security, so it is the primary material for producing bulletproof windows and panels. From the impact-resistant panels in retail stores and banks to the bulletproof windows of vehicles, polycarbonate plastic is the material used to produce all.
7. Polyethylene (PE)
Polyethylene is the most abundant plastic in the world; it is durable and lightweight plastic. And it is made from polymerizing ethene or ethylene monomer. At varying densities, different types of polyethylene with unique physical properties are produced.
There are four types of polyethylene: low-density polyethylene, medium-density polyethylene, high-density polyethylene, and ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene.
Uses of Polyethylene
1. Pipes And Fittings
Both high-density and low-density polyethylene are used in the production of a variety of pipes and fittings. High-density polyethylene is used to manufacture sewer pipes, water pipes, gas pipes, and the coating of steel pipes. Low-density polyethylene is used to produce hoses because it has low water absorption properties.
Everything around us has a substantial amount of plastic in them. We cannot deny that discovering plastic is one of the best things that has happened to humans. Plastic has numerous uses and applications, too much to list out.
Nevertheless, we need to be very cautious with the way we use plastics. Plastics may be useful to us, but there are adverse effects on other animals and the environment. So, we must ensure we use only biodegradable and recyclable plastics.