Plastics are literally everywhere; they are even worse than paparazzi. From the minute you wake up, you start using plastic; from brushes to water bottles to aeroplane components to plastics at the workplace to plastic containers being used by your dentist, we are not over exaggerating when we say plastics are everywhere. But have you ever taken a step back and looked at the plastic cover lying on the corner of your room and wondered how it is made? We will be giving you a crash course in the chemistry of plastic in this article.
So gear up and get ready for your first high school lesson in years.
The chemistry of plastics is like a complex quadratic equation, but the primary details of plastics are quite easily understood by just about anyone. Plastics are essentially made of polymers; they are complex compounds linked together in a particular sequence. The reason why many types of plastics are called poly- so and so, is because of the polymer makeup of the plastic. Polymers are compounds made of carbon and hydrogen essentially; certain polymers also contain nitrogen, oxygen, sulphur, among other elements. The polymer bond is quite sturdy and can sustain a lot of reactions, thus making it difficult to be decayed by natural elements. The polymer makeup also makes plastics extremely easy to mold and cast, making it an easy product to alter according to the needs of the user. But the one major reason for plastic to be so popular is because of the strength that polymer makeup provides, thus giving plastics products that edge over other similar eco-friendly products.
In general how plastics are made is down to two important processes called polymerization and polycondensation. Firstly, you have to understand that plastics are made from distilled crude oil. Distilled crude oil has a number of fractions; the important fraction to focus on is naphtha. Naphtha is the fraction from which plastic is made using specific catalysts. In short, monomers such as ethylene and propylene are bonded together to form polymers. These polymers have specific characteristics and features. As mentioned above depending on the characteristic of the polymer, plastic can be used in a number of different processes.
Plastic sure sounds like a pain to break down, doesn’t it? So why not go for an eco-friendly alternative instead? We have gone ahead and picked our potential rival to plastic.
One of the biggest direct competitors of plastic is hemp, but hemp is banned in almost all countries due to the source of hemp being a well-known drug. But if hemp was to attain legalisation, then the markets for plastic will greatly decrease, and there is even controversy that states that legalisation of hemp is blocked by multinationals citing the possible impact of loss in revenue due to hemp.