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Characteristics of Plastics: Have you noticed how plastic is employed practically in every aspect of modern life? The dishes we use, our phones and many more things are made out of plastics! What attracts people so much about plastics? What distinguishes plastics from other materials? Let’s learn about plastics and their characteristics in detail.
Plastic is a type of polymer. The word plastic is derived from the Greek word plastikos meaning ‘capable of being shaped or molded’. It is one of the most widely used materials today.
Some of the uses of plastics are given below:
The building blocks for making plastics are small organic molecules. Organic molecules contain carbon along with other substances. The organic molecules come from petroleum and natural gas. The polymerization of organic compounds forms them.
The characteristics of plastic materials are discussed below:
Plastic is Chemically Unreactive
We all know that when metals like iron are exposed to air and water, they rust (or corrode) (moisture). This is due to the chemical reactivity of metals. Chemically, plastics are inert. Air and water have little effect on plastics. Plastics are corrosion-resistant as a result of this. Plastics, in other words, are unaffected by the weather.
Plastics are also resistant to a variety of substances (including acids and bases). Plastic containers are used to hold a variety of products, including numerous chemicals, because polymers are non-reactive and resist corrosion.
Consider the difference between an iron and a plastic bucket. The bucket is made of iron, which is heavy and corrodes with time. On the other hand, the plastic bucket is light, stylish, and long-lasting. This is why plastics are so widely utilised in households and in numerous sectors.
In addition, an iron bucket would be more expensive than a plastic bucket. Plastic buckets are also available in a variety of appealing colours.
Plastics do not conduct heat or electricity, so they can be used as ‘insulators’. Plastics, being poor conductors of heat, are used to keep away from reaching our hands. For example, the handles of cooking utensils (like frying pans and pressure cookers) are made of plastic so that we can hold the hot cooking utensil safely (without getting our hands burnt).
Since plastics are poor conductors of electricity, they are used as electrical insulators. For example, electric wires have plastic covering as insulation so as to protect us from electric current passing through them. The handles of screwdrivers used by electricians are also made of plastic because it is an electrical insulator. Electric switches, plugs and sockets also have plastic covers.
Since plastics can be easily moulded, they are used to make a large variety of articles (or objects) having different shapes and sizes such as buckets, mugs, furniture (chairs, tables, etc.), bags, sheets, slippers, electrical fittings, toys, combs, toothbrushes, etc. The list is endless.
Plastics are generally cheaper than metals. Plastics can also be made much more easily than metals. Due to these properties, plastics are now widely used to make many of the household and industrial articles that were earlier made from metals. For example, the buckets used in our homes were earlier made from iron metal sheets, but these days most of the buckets are made of plastics.
There are numerous advantages of using acrylic polymers. They are more flexible than glass, break less quickly, and are resistant to abrasion, corrosion, industrial gases, and chemicals, among other things. The fact that acrylic sheets are lighter than glass is another advantage of using them.
As a result, the sheets are great for aquariums, doors (particularly shower doors), windows, and skylights. Acrylic sheets last significantly longer in the sun than most other materials. Acrylic sheets are very easy to clean, they can be cut into various shapes, and they can filter or even transmit ultraviolet radiation.
Plastic bottles are resistant to breakage, have a low cost, have great transparency, and are made from good-grade raw ingredients. Plastic bottles are mostly made of polyethylene or polypropylene with a variety of organic solvents added.
Polyester (PET), polyethylene (PE), and polypropylene (PP) are all made from plastic bottles. They are heated at high temperatures after adding appropriate organic solvents and then blow moulded, extruded, or injection moulded through plastic moulds.
The invention of the plastic bag has provided significant ease to human life. Still, as more people become aware of utilising environmental protection effectively, plastic pollution has become more globalized.
In our daily routine, we usually get things wrapped in plastic or packed in polythene bags. So plastic waste keeps getting accumulated in our homes. Ultimately the plastic wastes are dumped along with the household garbage. The use of plastic materials affects the environment very badly. It is because of the following reasons:
Plastics have many useful properties, which make them materials of choice for all sorts of uses. Due to these special properties, plastics have many advantages over traditional materials like metals, wood, etc., for making various articles. In this article, we have learnt about different characteristics of plastics, acrylic plastic, plastic bottles, polythene bags, and some uses of plastic.
Frequently asked questions related to characteristics of plastics is listed as follows:
Q.1. What are the characteristics of plastic?
Ans: Plastics are non-reactive. They do not react with air, water and do not corrode easily. So, they are used to store various materials, including many chemicals.
Plastics are light, strong and durable. They are cheaper than metal. Moreover, higher strength and light-weight make plastic a better choice for industries and household articles.
Plastics are poor conductors of heat and electricity: Handles of screwdrivers and handles of frying pans.
Q.2. What are the five uses of plastic?
Ans: Plastic in homes: Plastic containers seem more convenient to store food than metal containers because of their light-weight, lower price, good strength and easy handling.
b. In the health care industry: Plastics find extensive uses in the health care industry. Some examples of their uses are the packaging of tablets, threads used for stitching wounds, syringes, doctor’s gloves and a number of medical instruments.
c. As special plastic cookware in microwave ovens: Special plastic cookware is used in microwave ovens for cooking food. In microwave ovens, the heat cooks the food but does not affect the plastic vessel.
d. For non-stick coating on cookware: Teflon is a special plastic on which oil and water do not stick. It is used for non-stick cookware coating on cookware.
e. Fireproof plastics: Although synthetic fibre catches fire easily, it is interesting to know that the uniforms of firemen have a coating of melamine plastic to make them flame resistant.
Q.3. What are the advantages of plastic?
Ans: Advantages of plastic containers:
(a) Plastics do not react with food items.
(b) Plastics are strong and light.
(c) They are easy to handle and safe.
(d) It is resistant to corrosion
(e) It is a poor conductor of heat and electricity.
(f) It can be easily moulded into various shapes.
Q.4. What are the 7 types of plastic?
Ans: The seven different types of plastics that are commonly used in manufacturing products include: Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET), Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE), High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE), Polypropylene (PP), Polystyrene or Styrofoam (PS), Acrylic or Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA).
Q.5. Do we need plastic to survive?
Ans: Plastic is long-lasting and protects against contaminants and elements. It decreases food waste by preserving and extending the shelf life of food. It protects food against pests, bacteria, and humidity. Food is more likely to be damaged and rendered unusable without this protection..
Q.6. What are the negative effects of plastic?
Ans: Plastics take several years to decompose, so they are not environment-friendly. Plastic causes environmental pollution; besides, the burning process of synthetic materials is quite slow, and it does not burn completely. In this way, it releases a lot of poisonous fumes into the atmosphere causing air pollution.
Q.7. How can we avoid plastic?
Ans: Avoid the use of plastics as far as possible, recycle plastic waste, especially thermoplastics which can be recycled,Segregate biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes. Carelessly thrown polythene wrappers of food and bags may cause clogging of drains and choking respiratory system of animals like cows resulting in their death. The best way is to follow the 5R principle, namely, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover and Refuse.
We hope this article on the characteristics of plastics is helpful to you. If you have any queries on this page or in general about Plastics characteristics, ping us through the comment box below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
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