Meaning of Plastic

What is Plastic:

plastic is a high molecular weight organic material, and is characterized by its malleable property that allows it to adopt a variety of shapes. The word plastic derives from the Greek plastikoswhich means ʽmoldableʼ.

The plastic It is made up of long chains of large molecules called polymers.which undergo the chemical process of polymerization, and is obtained from chemical derivatives of oil and natural gas.

Plastic molecules are of organic origin, for example, resin, rubber or cellulose, among others, which can be molded in various forms and permanently after being at high temperatures, and carrying out a compression process. , molding or spinning.

For the manufacture of the finished plastic, the resin is mainly used in powder form or in small balls. As a result, bottles, tubes, containers, fibers and a wide variety of objects that we use in our day to day are made.

Due to its versatility and resistance, plastic has become one of the most used materials and even one of the most polluting, since it can be non-recyclable or biodegradable and its incineration greatly affects the ozone layer and the environment. usually.

history of plastic

The use of polymers dates back to ancient Mesoamerican cultures. However, it was in 1860 that the first plastic was made, when John Haytt developed celluloid.

Then, in 1909 Leo Baekeland, a Belgian chemist, created the first synthetic plastic, which was resistant to water, solvents and did not conduct electricity.

Scientists continued with plastic research and in 1920 Hermann Satudinger was the first to synthesize polystyrene and to explain what polymerization consists of. In 1933, chemists Reginald Gibson and Eric Fawcett created a thermoplastic called polyethylene.

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Then, in the following decades, scientists continued to investigate plastic and polytetrafluoroethylene or Teflon, polystyrene, the artificial fiber known as nylon, polypropylene, among others, appeared.

See also Polymer.

plastic properties


There is a wide variety of plastics that can have particular or common properties. The main properties of plastic are mentioned below:

  • It is not a conductor of electricity, so it is a good electrical insulator.
  • It is a thermal insulator, although it does not resist very high temperatures.
  • It works as an acoustic insulator.
  • It has high combustibility because it is largely composed of carbon and hydrogen.
  • It has a high mechanical resistance.
  • It has a high chemical resistance, so it prevents corrosion and other chemical factors that alter some materials.
  • They are waterproof.
  • They have low density.
  • They enjoy having plasticity by softening with heat.
  • Its preparation is not expensive.
  • Some plastics cannot be easily recycled.

types of plastic

Plastics can be classified into three types: thermoplastics, thermosets and elastomers.


It is the most used plastic. It is characterized by being a plastic that deforms at room temperature and can be melted at high temperature and transformed into a liquid that hardens when cooled. This is possible because its macromolecules are free.

Thermoplastics are polyethylenes, polyesters, polystyrenes, polypropylenes, polyvinyls and saturated. For example, bags, bottles, food containers, electrical insulators, boxes, among others.


These plastics, once they have gone through the process of forming a closed mesh of macromolecules, become a rigid plastic, and their shape cannot be changed again.

Phenols, animas, polyester resins, epoxy resins, melamine resins, aminoplastics and Bakelite can be mentioned as thermosetting. For example, electrical insulation, sports equipment, swimming pools, among others.

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They are highly elastic and rebound plastics without losing their initial shape and dimension when a force acts on them. Rubbers, polyurethanes, silicones, among others, are part of this type of plastic. For example, tires, prosthetics, diving suits, among others.

See also: types of polymers.