Types of Plastic


Various types of Plastic are widely used compounds used in everyday life. These polymer units of long carbon chains societal impacts that not only is harmful to the environment but also the organisms associated with it. There are various kinds of plastics categorized based on their structure.

Definition of plastic

Plastic is a compound that was introduced to the world in 1846 by a German chemist Christian Schonbein. The term plastic is derived from the Greek word plastikos which implies to mould. This group of materials can either be synthetic or obtained from nature. It is generally soft, then hardened, and moulded to derive an entirely new shape of a compound.

Figure 1: Polyethylene structure

This substance like any other substance is made of molecules. Plastics however are prepared from larger blocks of molecules called polymer made up by long carbon chains. Polymers are always combined with different additives, like; plasticizers and colorants. These additives in turn, affect the chemical, mechanical structure, and properties of plastic. Polyethylene is the simplest form of polymer and most popularly used plastic.

Types of Plastic

All the plastics are made of polymer units of significant molecular weight. These substances are widely categorised into two subunits that are thermoplastic and thermosetting plastics.


These plastics can be easily deconstructed by the application of heat and the solid plastics of this form can be bent easily by the aforementioned process. These are made by linear polymers and further bonded with cross-linked polymers.

The most common examples of these plastics are PVC, nylon, polythene etc.


These are the kind of Plastics that once moulded into a shape, cannot be softened any further shape by the application of heat. The polymers are heavily cross-linked fall under this category of plastics.

The most common example of these plastics includes Bakelite and melamine. Bakelite is utilised to make electrical switches and switchboards. Melamine is used to make harder substances like floor tiles.

There are different kinds of plastics based on with their materialistic constituents. These plastics are mentioned below −

Figure 2: Types of plastic

Polyethylene Terephthalate

Commonly called PET, this substance is used to make wrinkle-free fabrics. This is quite different from plastic bags that are obtained from various stores. These plastics can readily inhibit the settlement of oxygen molecules on the substance; also used in packing food and beverages.

Polyvinyl Chloride

It is a common example of synthetic polymer. Around 40 million tons of these substances are produced all across the world. PVCs are widely classified into two different types are rigid PVC and flexible PVC.

The rigid PVC is mostly used for various plumbing purposes and is utilised to make windows and doors. This material is also used to make cards for banks and manufacturing bottles.


It is the most common form of plastic and also called polythene. The monomer of this component is called ethene. The density of this substance varies from 0.88g/cm3 to 0.96g/cm3. Both the high density and low-density polyethene are used for various packaging purposes. This substance has a low melting point.


These are non-polar and partly crystalline polymers. The influence of heat can make this substance mouldable and transform it into a thermoplastic polymer.


These substances are used in drain waste vent pipe systems and are also useful in making certain musical instruments. The density of this substance ranges from 1.06 to 1.08 grams. This plastic is often used.


This product has high tensile strength. This product is quite lustrous and elastic. This substance is quite resistant to chemical substances. Nylon-6 is widely utilised in different sectors like aircraft and automobile industry".

Uses of Plastic

There are various uses of plastic. Few of them are mentioned as follows −

  • These have a sustainable and durable construction process.

  • It is used in automotive design and contributed to a multitude of innovations.

  • Plastic packaging is useful in the protection and preservation of various substances.

  • This help in making different components.

Harmful Effects of Plastic

Harmful effects of plastics are mentioned below −

  • Plastics are a major contributor to environmental pollution.

  • This substance also contributes to various harmful effects.

  • This product creates various harmful effects on health.

  • Plastic products harm the marine environment extensively.

  • Plastics are one of the major contributors to global warming.


Plastics are polymer compounds widely used in various processes. The longevity of the product marks it as a popular prodigy for various packaging processes and the production of final substances. Plastics are classified into various forms based on the constituent material and their respective traits. These are mostly classified into thermosetting and thermoplastic categories based on their ability of moulding.


Q1. What is the difference between thermosetting and thermoplastics?

Ans. Thermoplastics can be moulded over the time by the application of heat. These are made of linear polymers. Thermosetting are the plastics are moulded once and cannot be back to its original shape.

Q2. What is the importance of plastic recycling?

Ans. Plastics should be recycled within the proper frame of time to prevent any case of plastic pollution that imparts adverse effects on the environment. These are non-biodegradable in nature and cannot be decomposed by microbes. Hence, biopolymers and biodegradable polymers are used.

Q3. What is the properties of plastics?

Ans. Plastics are generally ductile; these substances cannot conduct either heat or electricity. Plastics can be readily transformed into various shapes when heat is applied to them. Plastics are resistant to the effects of corrosion and are also resistant to different chemicals.

Updated on: 17-Apr-2023


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