What is Plastic? What are the Characteristics of Plastic?
What is plastic?
Plastic is a material that is composed of proteins, resins, or other substances. It is easy to mold when exposed to high temperatures and can remain unchanged after said exposure. For this reason, it is said that the plastic has properties of flexibility and elasticity since it allows its adaptation to certain forms.
The plastic, once it reaches its final shape, turns out to be quite resistant and difficult to degrade. Its utilities are varied, it is used for the construction of bottles, tables, vases, among others.
The resistance to deterioration, impermeability, and low cost make this material one of the most used both in industry and in daily consumption. However, this material is not easy to recycle, being able to contaminate the environment for thousands of years.
Characteristics Of Plastic
The plastic was discovered in the year 1860 in a contest whose reward was $ 10,000. At that time, a substitute for natural ivory (used to manufacture, for example, billiard balls) was being sought.
In this contest appeared John Wesley Hyatt, who had the idea of dissolving cellulose in a solution of ethanol and camphor. Surprisingly this invention did not win the first prize but gave way to the invention of plastic.
As for the classification of plastics, we can distinguish:
Natural plastics They are polymers derived from products of natural origin. For example; cellulose, rubber, and casein. At the same time, a sub-classification can be distinguished.
Cellulose derived from cellulose: They make up celluloid, cellophane, and cellón.
Plastics derived from rubber: For example rubber and ebonite.
Synthetic plastics They are made by petroleum products. For example, polyethylene bags.
3. Types of plastic
There are different types of plastic according to their use:
Polyethylene terephthalate. It is basically used as containers for foodstuffs, soft drinks, oils, syrups, medicines, etc.
High-density polyethylene. It is used to make potable water pipes. Toys and prosthetics are also made, among others.
Low-density polyethylene. It is used to make toys, bags, plates, and cutlery.
4. Production cost
One of the characteristics by which this material began to be used is its low cost of production since it can take the form that is desired as long as it is exposed to the necessary high temperatures and the appropriate mold is available.
5. Colorless and solid or semi-solid
This material is widely used in the industry, both edible and industrial, due to the lack of color and great solidity, and can range from edible, drinkable foods to industrial products.
6. Electrical and thermal insulators
In general, plastics are excellent electrical insulators. In other words, they do not conduct electricity. However, in the event of a fire, plastic is highly conductive, so precautions must be taken with this material in these cases. However, on certain occasions, it is used as a thermal insulator although it can not withstand very high temperatures.
Within the use of plastics, one of the most outstanding is its ability to contain and resist without altering substances. For these reasons, it is used to contain acids or chemical processes.
A plastic receives the name of thermoplastic when it changes in front of the exhibition or variation of temperature. That is to say, in front of average temperature (standard) the plastic has a type of solidity and resistance, being able to be a little flexible or deformable (this will depend on the materials that compose it).
However, in general terms, this type of thermoplastic, when exposed to high temperatures, becomes liquid and, faced with very low temperatures, it will become rigid and vitreous.
9. Degree of toxicity and recycling
As mentioned above, the plastic is resistant to deterioration. However, it is important to mention that, on many occasions, resistance is not synonymous with health. In other words, a plastic bottle may or may not be reusable. This will depend on the label that each bottle has and applies for each plastic product that you want to reuse.
In relation to the above, a plastic that is at high temperatures and transformed into a liquid state releases several highly toxic substances for both humans and the environment.
On the other hand, the deterioration of this plastic (although very stable in the short time) is polluting after hundreds of years so it is quite difficult to recycle.