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PLASTIC(S) from the latin word plasticus, (“plastic”, “malleable”), is a synthetic material made from one or more polymers combined with a variety of additives. Polymers are natural or synthetic substances that are formed of chain molecules. Polymers are what give plastics its special characteristics. All plastic are malleable at some point during the manufacturing process.
There are two main types of plastic – Thermosetting plastics and Thermoplastics. Thermosetting plastics do not melt when heated. Instead they turn to ash and therefore cannot be used to make new objects. Thermoplastics, on the other hand, softens when heated and can be reshaped and therefore used to make new objects. Here are some of the most common plastics, and plastic varieties that have been important in the history of plastics.
Celluoid. The first plastic. Semi synthetic, based on cellulose (the material that cell walls in plants are made of).
Bakelite. Thermosetting plastic. Hard and dark. The first synthetic plastic.
Carbamide plastics. Thermosetting plastic. Slightly grainy surface. The first plastic suitable for household goods.
Melamine plastic. Thermosetting plastic. Smooth surface. Hard and resistant to light and heat.
Polystyrene. Thermoplastic. Hard but fragile. One the first thermoplastics. Later improved – heat resistant and robust.
Polyethylene. Thermoplastic. Waxy surface. Very common in household goods.
PVC. Thermoplastic. PVC means Polyvinyl chloride. Used in, for example, rain coats and toys.
Nylon. Thermoplastic. A synthetic polyamide fiber that can be used for textiles and other items.