A myriad of plastics is available in the market, used in different kinds of uses in various industries such as food service, clothing, electronics, and many others. When observed, all the types of plastics seem to be the same. However, every plastic available in the market has different uses, features, benefits, and harms. It is essential to understand this variety to use them appropriately.
So, let’s look at different plastics and the advantages and disadvantages of using plastic products.
Classification of Plastic
If we look into the classification of plastic, the list is infinite as it differs from industry to industry and the uses it is put to. Some of the major types of plastic include:
This is a thermoplastic polymer often termed PP. The plastic is opaque in colour and can be dyed with the help of coloured pigments. The plastic is hard, BPA-free, heat and chemical resistant. It is safe to use in the dishwasher, microwave, and freezer and is used in hot holding items, disposable straws, take-out containers, flatware, and dinnerware.
Abbreviated as PE, this type of plastic is a thermoplastic homopolymer. It is found in different forms, such as linear low-density, low density, and high-density polyethylene. The plastic is BPA-free, crack-resistant, and safe to use in the freezer. It is normally used to produce cutting boards, tumblers, deli containers, take-out containers, and other products.
- Polyethylene Terephthalate
It is thermoplastic polymer resin or synthetic fibre to produce polyester. It is abbreviated as PETE or PET and is semi-rigid or rigid and transparent or clear in colour. The plastic can be dyed in various colours, is BPA-free, crush and crack resistant, and is safe to use in the freezer. Tape, chemical bottles, drink bottles, etc., are produced from this plastic.
Polystyrene plastic is produced from natural chemical styrene. As compared to other plastic, this material has better insulating properties. It has clear colour, is inexpensive and lightweight. It is BPA-free and can be easily used in the microwave. However, the other form of polystyrene is not safe to be used in microwaves. Due to its thin and transparent properties, it can be torn easily and so is usually used in trays, lids, protective packaging, disposable flatware, or dinnerware.
This is an engineered thermoplastic and is highly durable. It is clear in colour in its original form but is darkened or coloured to make it translucent. It is heat resistant and protects against UV rays. It is safe to use in a dishwasher or freezer. Products such as food storage containers, appliances like coffee machines or refrigerators, goggles, and glasses are made out of this type of plastic.
- Expanded Polystyrene or Foam
When polystyrene is processed to expand through compressing and steaming repeatedly, foam is created. It can be created in a variety of densities and therefore is the best insulation material. It is lightweight and affordable. It is used to create take-out containers, cups, egg cartons, meat or food trays, and other products.
The technical name of PVC is polyvinyl chloride and can be produced in flexible or rigid form. It is resistant to water, chemicals and is durable and lightweight. Both flexible and rigid materials are often used in electrical and building applications. Products such as partitions, placemats, gloves, and films are made out of PVC.
There are other types of plastics, such as Polylactic Acid Plastic, Tritan, SAN, and many others. Every kind of plastic has its features and uses.
Advantages of Plastic
Plastic has become an integral part of today’s world. It is used in daily life in big business houses by individuals to organizations at large. The advantages of plastic are summarised below:
Life with plastic is more convenient and easy as compared to other materials. For instance, getting a plastic bag while shopping or packaging water in plastic bottles. It is easier to carry plastic boxes while travelling or using disposable items for use and throw purposes.
As compared to other alternatives, plastic is cheaper. The cheap material used in the manufacture of other products further reduces its price also. This chain continues, and in turn, the end-users are at benefit.
This material is highly versatile and can be moulded as per the requirements. You can tailor it to any technical and mechanical needs.
The durability of the material is very high. The products wrapped in plastic are less prone to vulnerability of the environment and therefore have longer life shells. The good quality products used in routine life and appliances and industrial material last longer and thus increase cost-efficiency.
Disadvantages of Plastic
Plastic is hazardous and very disastrous to humankind. Though this can be reduced by appropriate recycling of the material, disadvantages of using plastic products persist. Some of the significant impacts of using plastic are mentioned below:
- Environmental dumping
Plastic is hazardous to the environment as it does not perish. It remains in the ecosystem for infinity, and so hurts the environment. Plastic is dumped in the environment instead of recycling which is hazardous.
- Non-renewable resource
Plastic is normally prepared from oil which is scarce in the environment. Therefore when the raw material exhausts, it is likely that plastic production will get hampered. At such time alternatives will have to be sought.
Plastic is the primary reason for all kinds of pollution, namely water, soil, air, and others. The water resource is highly contaminated due to the waste dumping in them. Similarly burning of plastic causes air pollution. Other forms of pollution are also, directly and indirectly, connected to plastic.
Plastic loiters in every nook and corner of the ecosystem. The products are not properly treated and hence remain here and there, which causes pollution and disturbance to the system.
- Public health
The various kinds of pollution caused due to plastic also has a major impact on the body and health of humans, along with other creatures in the environment.
- Extinction and endangerment of species
The natural environment and natural habitat are adversely affected due to the improper use of plastic. This has become a reason for the extinction of species of plants and animals due to depletion in the capability to reproduce and sustain.
Long-term use of plastic can prove to be harmful to the environment. Hence, it is essential to understand the different types of plastic and their uses. This will help you understand the importance of avoiding plastic usage in daily life and using suitable plastic wherever necessary. However, environmental consciousness should be given top priority while using plastic.