7 Types of Plastics that You Need to Know

Plastic materials’ chemical structure, properties, and applications differ, making selection challenging for novices. They’re famous in the automotive, medical, textile, food, building, and construction industries for their versatility and durability.

Table of Contents

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Polypropylene (PP), and Polystyrene (PS) are different types of plastic. Polycarbonate (PC), Polyethylene (PE), and Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene (ABS) are other materials.

In this article, we’ll discuss plastics more in-depth. We’ll also explain the materials’ advantages and disadvantages with recycling tips. Let’s get started.

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)

PET

Polyethylene Terephthalate, also called polyester, is a colorless plastic material you can easily recycle.

What is PET Plastic?

Introduced by James T. Dickson and J. Rex Whinfield in 1940, PET is a semi-crystalline material with dimensional stability. It’s typically transparent, durable, lightweight, and has an impressive strength-to-weight ratio.

This synthetic fiber is an ideal choice for food packaging applications due to its outstanding thermal, mechanical, and chemical resistance, as well as its ability to maintain the carbonation in and oxygen out of food and beverage products. Its low moisture absorption ensures that perishable items stay fresh and safe for consumption.

Common Uses of PET Plastic

Polyethylene Terephthalate is famous for its widespread utility in the textile and bottling industry. It’s ideal for packaging food and beverages like juices, carbonated soft drinks, or soda bottles. You can also use it for the following purposes:

  • Plastic lumber and salad dressing bottles
  • Medical storage containers
  • Plastic bottles
  • Mouthwash or baby bottles
  • Peanut butter jars.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

PVC

What is PVC?

Polyvinyl Chloride is a synthetic polymer with versatile properties like durability and lightness. Discovered by Eugen Baumann and Henri Victor Regnault in 1872, PVC is one of the oldest synthetic materials globally. This vinyl Chloride is a rigid and flexible plastic. It’s famous for its chemical resistance and ability to blend with other recycled materials in the plastics industry.

PVC has long-term stability, ideal for the construction, automobile, and healthcare sectors. You can make household products such as frames, doors, pipes, and gutters. The polymer’s useful for traditional building materials like ceramics, rubber, concrete, metal, and wood.

The Characteristics of PVC

Polyvinyl Chloride is durable, versatile, lightweight, and used in various applications. Characteristics of one of the most commonly recycled plastic include the following:

  • High impact strength
  • Weathering and low-temperature resistance
  • Chemical and flame resistance
  • Readily available and economical
  • Easy to mold or extrude.

Polypropylene (PP)

PP

What is PP?

Polypropylene is a flexible and easy-to-customize thermoplastic material with high recyclability and zero toxic chemicals. Polypropylene is a resin with fatigue, water, and high electrical resistance. This flexible polymer is dishwasher-safe and doesn’t crack under repeated stress. PP and PC plastic have some similar properties.

Robert L. Banks and J. Paul Hogan discovered PP for the packaging, textile, and automotive industries in 1951. It’s often in medical tubing, medicine jars, car parts, pipes, sheets, carpet fibers, and tanks.

You can use this heat-resistant plastic to make shampoo bottles, thermal vests, egg cartons, specimen bottles, yogurt, and juice containers.

Advantages of PP

Polypropylene is semi-crystalline, meaning you can remold the plastic into desirable shapes. Other advantages include the following:

  • Excellent resistance to electricity, heat, fatigue, and chemical leaks
  • It’s relatively inexpensive
  • Easy to repair from damage
  • It has a low density compared to other plastic materials
  • Lightweight, flexible, and has high tensile strength.

Polystyrene (PS)

PS

What is PS?

This synthetic thermoplastic material, also called Styrofoam, is one of the most commonly used plastics made from polymerizing styrene. Polystyrene is a transparent resin available in foam and sheet forms. You can reuse and recycle both variations for child-protective seats and door panels.

Eduard Simon, a German apothecary, discovered Polystyrene in 1839. It has a relatively low heat resistance, ideal for hot drinks and food.

The polymer’s firmness makes it suitable for packaging applications. It’s known for flexibility in the food service, housewares, and tools industry.

Common Uses of PS Plastic

Polystyrene plastic can make tissue culture trays, test tubes, and Petri dishes. You can also find it in red solo cups and yogurt containers. Other uses are as follows:

  • Automotive parts and appliances
  • Squeezable bottles, sippy cups, and plastic crates
  • Poison plastic, milk jugs, and conditioner bottles
  • Construction materials
  • Detergent bottles, plastic resins, and recycling bins.

Polycarbonate (PC)

PC

What is PC?

Polycarbonate is a thermoplastic polymer known for its durability, dimensional stability, and impact strength. Polycarbonate is a rigid plastic material resistant to fracture and easily molded into a desired shape in recycling facilities. It’s a natural ultraviolet (UV) filter and an alternative to glass.

This plastic is available in different colors and can withstand hot food containers without losing quality.

PC blends seamlessly with flame-retardant materials and has good abrasion resistance. It offers electrical insulation properties and helps make eyewear, clear tubes, and light pipes.

Alfred Einhorn, a German chemist, discovered this material in 1898.

The Characteristics of PC

Polycarbonate is famous in the medical, automotive, building, and construction industry for its versatile characteristics. It’s easy to recycle, and other features include the following:

  • Heat and chemical resistance
  • Transparent and lightweight
  • High-impact strength and toughness
  • Optical nature
  • Easy to customize.

Polyethylene (PE)

PE

What is PE?

Polyethylene is an environment-friendly thermoplastic with variable crystalline structure serving various purposes. Polyethylene is one of the most commonly recycled plastic materials that burn without residue. Hans von Pechmann, a German chemist, first discovered PE in 1898.

This item is durable and resistant to chipping and fading. It’s also an excellent electrical insulator that’s not susceptible to chemical substances.

Due to different processing conditions, you’ll find low, medium, and high densities of PE in the market. They’re used for many applications and in many everyday materials.

Prescription bottles, trays, crates, coaxial cables, buckets, toys, pipes, and fittings are a few examples.

Advantages of PE

Good impact strength is one of the top benefits of polyethylene, making the plastic ideal for large containers and boats. Below are other advantages of PE:

  • Easy to clean with soap and water
  • Flexible and long-lasting
  • Lightweight and low water absorption
  • Resistant to solvents, corrosion, and alcohols
  • Food grade availability.

Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene (ABS)

ABS

What is ABS?

Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene is a thermoplastic with structural strength and can withstand high temperatures. Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene is an affordable impact-resistant plastic with excellent low and high-temperature performance. Borg-Warner Corporation introduced this durable and versatile polymer to the commercial markets in 1954.

The plastic is compatible with injection molding applications and fused-deposition modeling (FDM). It’s in home appliances such as food processors, vacuum cleaners, refrigerator liners, and dashboard components.

You might also find the material in a plastic bag, seat belt components, paper milk cartons, and sports equipment.

The Characteristics of ABS

Due to its sturdy nature, Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene offers excellent electrical insulation, dimensional stability, and impact balance. Other characteristics of ABS plastic include the following:

  • High-degree surface quality
  • Heat and abrasion resistance
  • Tensile strength and rigidity
  • High-level brightness and good welding capacity
  • Chemical resistance and high rigidity.

The Importance of Plastic in Promoting Recycling and Sustainability

Recycled Plastic

Plastic is environmental-friendly, socially, and economically, therefore crucial in promoting recycling and sustainability.

Recycling plastic reduces the need to extract raw materials from the earth. It minimizes the negative impacts of extraction on the environment. It also promotes sustainability in the following ways:

Packaging. Since the material is lightweight, recycling it for food packaging reduces waste.

Transport. Using recycled plastic in automobiles reduces vehicle weight and emissions.

Construction. Recycling the item is ideal for sustainable building due to its excellent insulating properties.

Advantages of Plastic Recycling

Saving energy and reducing waste are benefits of plastic recycling programs. Conserving natural resources and giving rise to innovation are other advantages. Let’s dig into the details:

It Saves Energy. Manufacturers need a lot of energy to extract natural resources for making plastic. But recycling the material requires less equipment processing and consumes less power.

Saves Cost. Instead of buying new plastic bottles, recycling saves you a good deal of money. You can reuse the product for water storage and other things that lowers your expenses.

It Reduces Waste. Since you’re not throwing the old plastic bottles away, recycling them becomes a workable alternative for reducing waste.

Conserve Natural Resources. Manufacturing the material requires extracting gas, petroleum, and water from the ground. Hence, recycling plastic help conserve these precious resources since you don’t need new supplies.

It Sparks Innovation. Recycling plastic inspires innovation by allowing manufacturers to create functional, desirable products. You can convert the material into mesmerizing cutleries, combs, and brush handles.

What Are the Challenges That Come With?

Plastic Recycling

Lack of material knowledge with a gap in demand and supply are challenges associated with recycling plastics. Not having adequate industrial experience and market demand are other problems:

Lack of Quality Material Knowledge. There are various plastic types, which makes identifying quality materials challenging for novices. Each product has varied degrading behavior.

Due to a lack of knowledge, new manufacturers combine different polymers. It makes the recycling process difficult and might lead to the waste of valuable resources.

Demand and Supply Gap. The lack of awareness in the plastic collection industry creates barriers to recycling. Collecting the waste along streets or in landfills and dumps also challenges many pickers.

Demand and Supply

Plastic waste pickers face risks caused by fires, trucks, and surface slides. Some also ignore certain materials due to their low monetary value.

Inadequate Technology. The right equipment for processing plastic is unavailable to manufacturers in some countries, especially developing nations. The technological lag affects the recycling process, ultimately impacting product quality.

Lack of Industrial Expertise. Inadequate industrial knowledge of recycling plastic waste makes the process complicated. The failure to understand how equipment works might lead to poor-quality projects. You cannot remold durable, versatile, and efficient products without proper field experience.

Not All Recycled Plastics Have a Market Demand. You’ll find a mature marketplace for Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) materials. Others may offer little incentives, and you might not find quick customers for them.

Tips for Effective Plastic Recycling

Knowing your material, separating organics, and ensuring it’s clean, empty, and dry are practical recycling tips. Avoiding wish cycling or all the plastics items is also essential. Here are the details:

Know Your Plastic

These materials have different types; knowing each helps you understand which to reuse. It eliminates polymer cross-contamination that might render a batch unsuitable for reprocessing.

Plastics to recycle include polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), and Polypropylene (PP). You can also reprocess Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene (ABS).

Avoid reprocessing plastic sleeves on bottles and Styrofoam as they don’t break down enough.

Separate Organic Waste

Separate Organic Waste

It means removing food scraps, cardboard, and paper from the plastic before reprocessing. To lower pollution, you can also pull out grocery bags, bottle caps, or jelly jars in the polymer.

Ensuring the material is organically free is crucial for retaining recyclable plastic value.

Keep the Plastic Clean, Empty, and Dry

Food waste or residue in recyclable plastics can contaminate the batch. Keep debris in garbage cans or trash bags.

When preparing items for reprocessing, rinse them to remove dirt. Leave the materials to drip dry before placing them into the equipment. You don’t need to scrub them with soap and water; ensure they’re empty, clean, and moisture-free.

Avoid Wishcycling

Wishcycling means putting non-recyclable items in recycling equipment optimistically. It’s a common reprocessing mistake from novices that often leads to contamination. Don’t drop objects you shouldn’t recycle in the mix to avoid wasting valuable resources.

Avoid Plastic Bags

Avoid Plastic Bags

Plastic frozen food bags get caught easily in recycling equipment, which may shut down the machinery. Remove these items before reprocessing to ensure smooth operations.

Another reason to avoid plastic grocery bags is that they dissolve into harmful microplastics. Animals can ingest these tiny particles that could potentially kill or hurt them.

Conclusion

With the insight you’ve gained on plastic materials, you’re well-equipped to make informed decisions. Our guide’s practical recycling tips also enhance your environmental awareness and boost your ability to achieve positive results while handling plastic materials.

Plastic materials such as low-density polyethylene LDPE, polypropylene, and polycarbonate are recyclable. You can reprocess them into cooking oil bottles, disposable cups, and food trays.

Buy High-Quality Plastic Materials from Hongju

At Hongju Silicone, we’re dedicated to providing customers with safe-to-use products. Discover more about Hongju Silicone and the plastic materials products we’re proud to offer.

We’re committed to providing high-quality custom solutions and are ready to assist you with your requirements. Visit our website and reach out to our team to take your product development to the next level.

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Hey there, I’m David!

I’m the founder of Hongju Silicone. I have been in this field for more than two decades. If you are looking for custom-made silicone rubber products, feel free to ask me any questions.

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