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Plastics 101



Plastic materials and products play an important part in cutting-edge technologies used in the space program, in bulletproof vests and prosthetic limbs, as well as in a myriad of everyday products. Check out the resources below to learn about the many uses of plastic materials, how they are made, and basic information on plastics and the environment.

The Basics—Polymer Definition and Properties

If you’re after basic information on plastic materials, this is the place to find it. Here you’ll learn the definition and properties of polymers, another name for plastics.

Life Cycle of a Plastic Product

This is designed to lend a better understanding concerning how plastics are made, the different types of plastics, and their numerous properties and applications.

Uses of Plastics

Whether you are aware of it or not, plastics play an important part in your life. Plastics' versatility allow them to be used in everything from car parts to doll parts, from soft drink bottles to the refrigerators they are stored in. From the car you drive to work in to the television you watch at home, plastics help make your life easier and better. So how is it that plastics have become so widely used? How did plastics become the material of choice for so many varied applications?

How Plastics Are Made

The term “plastics” includes materials composed of various elements such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, chlorine, and sulfur.  Plastics typically have high molecular weight, meaning each molecule can have thousands of atoms bound together.  Naturally occurring materials, such as wood, horn and rosin, are also composed of molecules of high molecular weight.

Plastic Packaging Resin Identification Codes

Have you ever wondered about those little numbers inside a triangle of arrows on the bottom of plastic containers? They tell you the kind of plastic is used to manufacture the soft drink bottles, laundry detergent packages, milk jugs, and other plastic bottles that you purchase. The numbers and letters are intended as resin identification codes to facilitate the recycling process.


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