Understanding the Different Types of Plastics

Plastic is a very versatile material that can be used to create countless products and tools. But not all types of plastic are the same; each is designed to possess specific qualities and meet the needs of its intended application. It’s important to know the difference between different types of plastic so you can choose the best one for your product.

Whether you’re an expert in plastic or just starting to learn about it, it’s helpful to have a clear understanding of the different types of plastic. Each type is made with a specific chemical structure that gives it unique physical properties. These characteristics are determined by the type of polymer used to make it.

Different plastics can be classified based on their molecular structures, the process they undergo to be created, their stability, their ability to resist certain chemicals and other factors that affect the performance of the plastic in use. Some kinds of plastic are even designed to be flame-retardant or able to absorb odors.

The most common kind of plastic is commodity plastic, which accounts for around 146 million tonnes of the world’s annual production. The group includes a number of popular plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE). These are used for things like bottles, shopping bags, and disposable food containers. They are inexpensive and highly versatile, making them the most common commodity plastics. They also are known for their lack of biodegradability, which contributes to ocean pollution as they float on water or break down into microplastics that can harm marine life.

Other common types of plastic include polycarbonate, styrene butadiene (SBR), and vinyl. These are tough, long-lasting plastics that are found in things such as pipes, car parts, thermal vests, sunglasses, and compact discs. They are resistant to a number of chemicals, heat, and radiation. Some of them are able to absorb odors, while others are permeable and have good insulation qualities.

Another common kind of plastic is low-density polyethylene (LDPE). It’s a soft, flexible plastic that can be used for things like bags, sandwich and grocery bags, and bubble wrap. LDPE is a less expensive option that can be reused for food items, and it’s also considered one of the safer plastics as it leaches fewer toxins than other types of plastic.

Finally, there’s medium-density polyethylene (MDPE), a harder plastic that is often used for oil and gas pipes and industrial tubing. It’s also found in car and truck bumpers, garbage cans, and water piping. MDPE is strong and durable, but it doesn’t have the same flexibility as LDPE.

Many types of plastic are petroleum-based, which can contribute to resource depletion and dependence on fossil fuels. They also don’t break down easily and build up in landfills and oceans, creating environmental hazards for wildlife and humans. Plastic is also non-biodegradable, which means it can linger in the environment for centuries, polluting air, soil, and water. These dangers are why it’s so important to limit your consumption of disposable plastics and use recycled products whenever possible.