Everything you need to know about plastic

When we look everywhere around us, we must find plastics. They make lives easier, safer, cleaner, and even more enjoyable. They are term commonly used to describe a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic materials which is used in different applications. Plastics can be found in our houses, clothes, cars, toys, screens, medical equipment, etc.

Today you’ll get to know the definition, applications, structure, properties, classifications, types, and some great benefits of plastics.

Read more: Everything you need to know about plastic



What is plastic?

The term “plastic” is derived from the Greek word “plastics”, which means “fit for molding”. This is referring to the material’s malleability, or plasticity during manufacture, allowing it to be able to be cast, pressed, or pressed into a variety of shapes such as films, plates, fibers, bottles, boxes, and many more.

Just as earlier mentioned, plastics are a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic compounds that are malleable and can be molded into solid objects. Plastics are organic materials, just like wood, paper, or wool, produced with raw materials that are natural products such as cellulose, coal, natural gas, salt, and crude oil.

Generally, plasticity is a property that can occur on materials that deform irreversibly without breaking. However, in the case of moldable polymers, it occurs to such a degree of their actual name derives from this specific ability.

There are various types of plastic out there with different properties and benefits. There are organic plastics, which contain carbon, and inorganic plastics which don’t. Some plastics occur in nature, like tree rubber, while some are hard and shatter-resistant. Others are soft and flexible.

Plastics occur as many things people don’t recognize as plastic, things as glues and adhesives, paints, protective coatings, linings, sealants, and insulation. Some plastics even contain additives that make them bacteria- or fire-resistant, some additives give a rainbow of colors, make them flexible, or fill them with bubbles, making them a better insulator.

Read more: Understanding the processing and fabrication of plastics

Applications and some benefits of plastics

Below are the applications and benefits of various types of plastics

Plastics aid durability, sustainability, and long-lasting design and construction in buildings, homes, and infrastructure such as bridges.

Accessories like computers, cell phones, television, microwave, etc. are durable, lightweight, and even affordable as they contain plastic.

Varieties in sports are made with plastic, stuff like, plastic helmets, mouth guards, goggles, protective padding, etc. in this case plastic help to ensure safety in sports, for example, a shock-absorbent plastic foam helps to keep feet stable and supported. Rugged plastic shells covering helmets and pads help protect heads, joints, and bones.

Plastics have improved and contributed to the performance, safety, and fuel efficiency of automobiles.

In product packaging, plastic helps to protect and preserve goods and also reduces weight in transportation. Thus, it saves fuel and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Read more:  Understanding fiber-reinforced plastic

Structure, properties, and classifications of plastic

In industries where plastics are made, they are seen as either “commodity” resins or “specialty” resins. The term resin has been used ever since the early years of the plastics industry. Resin originally referred to naturally occurring amorphous solids such as shellac and rosin.

Commodity resins are plastics that are produced at high volume and low cost for durable goods and the most common disposable items. These types of plastics include polyethylene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride, and polystyrene. All these plastics will be further explained.

On the other hand, specialty resins are plastics whose properties are suitable for some applications. It is widely known as engineering plastics or engineering resins. The plastic is produced at low volume and higher cost. Specialty plastic has the ability to compete with die-cast metals in plumbing, hardware, automotive and agricultural applications. Examples of these plastics are polyacetal, polyamide (popularly known as nylon), polytetrafluoroethylene (trademark Teflon), polycarbonate, polyphenylene sulfide, epoxy, and polyether ketone. Thermoplastic elastomers are another member of a specialty resin. They have the elastic properties of rubber yet can be molded repeatedly upon heating.

watch the video below to learn more about plastics:

Plastics can also be classified into two distinct categories based on their chemical composition. One of these categories is plastic which is made up of polymers, containing only aliphatic (linear) carbon atoms in their backbone chains. These include polyethylene terephthalate and polyvinyl chloride, commonly referred to as PET and PVC.  There are many other types listed above, but the structure of polypropylene can serve as an example. Carbon atom contains a pendant methyl group (CH3):

The second category of plastic is made up of heterochain polymers that contain atoms such as oxygen, nitrogen, or sulfur in their backbone chains, in addition to carbon. Most engineering plastics are composed of heterochain polymers. A good example is a polycarbonate that contains two aromatic (benzene) rings in its molecules:

Read more: List of best glues for plastic

Types of plastics

Just as earlier mentioned, plastics are categorized into two; commodity plastics or standard plastics and engineering plastics. The following are the various types of plastics we can see around us.

types of plastics

Commodity Plastics:

Below are the various types of commodity plastics:

Polyamides (PA) or nylons – it is used as fibers, toothbrush bristles, tubing, fishing line, and low-strength machine parts like engine parts or gun frames.

Polycarbonate (PC) – polycarbonate is used to produce compact discs, riot shields, traffic lights, eyeglasses, security windows, lenses, etc.

Polyester (PES) – it’s widely used in fashion and textiles as fibers and textiles.

Polyethylene (PE) – these are inexpensive types of plastics used for making supermarket bags and plastic bottles. It’s of three types:

  • High-density polyethylene (HDPE) – milk jugs, molded plastic cases, and detergent bottles are made with this type.
  • Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) – it’s used for making outdoor furniture, siding, floor tiles, shower curtains, clamshell packaging, etc.
  • Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) – is used in carbonated drinks bottles, peanut butter jars, microwavable packaging, plastic film, etc.

Polypropylene (PP) – it’s used in bottle caps, yogurt containers, drinking straws, appliances, plastic pressure pipe systems, car bumpers, etc.

Polystyrene (PS) – it is widely used for producing food containers, foam peanuts, disposable cups, plastic tableware, plates, cutlery, compact-disc, cassette boxes, etc.

  • High-impact polystyrene (HIPS) – is used in food packaging and vending cups.

Polyurethane (PU) – these types of plastics are used to produce thermal insulation forms, surface coatings, printing rollers, cushioning foams, etc.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – is used as electrical wire/cable insulation, plumbing pipes, and guttering, window frame, shower curtains, flooring, etc.

Polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC) – these plastic types are widely used for food packaging.

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) – it’s used in cases of electronic equipment like computer monitors, keyboards, printers, etc., and drainage pipes.

Specialist plastics or engineering plastics

Below are the various types of engineering plastics, which can also be called high-performance plastics.

Polyepoxide – also known as epoxy used as an adhesive and potting agent for electrical parts. It is also used as a matrix for a composite material with hardeners including amine, amide, and boron trifluoride.

Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) – also known as acrylic.

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) – also known as Teflon. Has good heat resistance, and low-friction coatings. It’s used in plumber’s tape and water slides and non-stick surfaces for frying pans.

Phenolics or phenol-formaldehyde (PF) – these types of polymer are relatively heat resistant, high modulus, and good fire-resistant. This is why they are often used for insulating parts in an electrical joint. it is also used in paper laminated products like Formica, and thermal insulation foams.

Read more: Understanding the difference between metals and non-metals

Some other types of specialist plastics include:

Melamine Formaldehyde (MF) – these types of plastic are one of the aminoplast, used as a multi-colorable alternative to phenolics like moldings. It breaks resistance alternatives to ceramic cups plates and bowls for children.

Thermoplastic, biocompatibility is one of the most expensive commercial polymers. It allows the use in medical implant applications like aerospace moldings.

Maleimide/bismaleimide – these types of plastics are used in high-temperature composite materials.

Furan – it’s a resin based on furfuryl alcohol used in foundry sands and biologically derived composites.

Silicone poly – a diketoenamine heat-resistant resin used mainly as a sealant but also used for high-temperature cooking utensils. It’s also used as a base resin for industrial paints.

Polyetherimide (PEI) – it’s also known as Ultem. A high-temperature, chemically stable polymer that does not crystallize.

Polyimide – is also a high-temperature specialized plastic type used in materials like Kapton tape.

Plutarch material – this is a biodegradable and heat-resistant thermoplastic that contained a modified corn starch.

Polylactic acid (PLA) – it’s also a biodegradable, thermoplastic that can be converted into a variety of aliphatic polyesters gotten from lactic acid. This in turn can be made by fermentation of various agricultural products like cornstarch when made from dairy products.

Urea-formaldehyde (UF) – it’s also one of the aminoplast, used as a multi-colorable alternative to phenolics. It’s used as a wood adhesive for plywood, hardboard, and chipboard. It is also used as an electrical switch housing.

Polysulfone – these types of plastics are high-temperature melts processable resin used in membranes, filtration medial, water heater dip tubes, and other high-temperature applications.

Polydiketoenamine (PDK) – it’s a new type of plastic that can be dunked in acid and change shape endlessly.

Read more: Different Types of forging tools and Equipment

processed plastic


In this article, we’ve enlightened on the essentials students need to know about plastic. the definition, applications, structure, properties, classifications, types, and some benefits of plastics.

I hope you enjoyed the reading, if so, kindly, comment, share, and recommend this site to other technical students. Thanks!


One response to “Everything you need to know about plastic”

  1. Well-crafted post! The information on plastics was informative and easy to understand. I appreciate the clear definitions and examples of different types of plastics, as well as their various properties. It’s interesting to learn about the different applications of plastics in our daily lives. Great job!

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