A Peek into the Plastic Industry

As far as any of us can remember, plastic has always been around but did you know that plastics were mass-produced in 1950? Since the start of its mass production, plastic has increased on an exponential scale. At that point in time, plastic was produced at a rate of 1.7 million tons with each passing year.

By the year 2014, the numbers had drastically climbed and reached 311 million tons. However, the value used isn’t even significant enough to include the various fibres that are used. During our current economy, plastic is produced from polypropylene, polyethene terephthalate, polyacrylic, and polyamide.

Researchers indicated that by the year 2050, we could easily expect the number to reach almost 2000 million tons. However, if the trends decline, these number would drastically drop. Unlike other compounds, plastics are very light, cheap, durable and can be easily modified. As a result, it is even in higher demand than before.

Just around every corner, you’ll see something made from plastic. Within the European sector, the building and construction sector uses 20.1% of plastic, the packaging sector requires 39.5% and the automotive consists of 8.6%. In addition, agriculture utilizes 3.4%, and the electronic and electrical industry requires 5.7%. Besides those mentioned, other uses form a whopping 22.7% of plastic usage, from household goods to medical equipment and supplies such as glove ports.

While there are many advantages to using these raw materials, there are also a number of disadvantages. When it comes to the environment, since plastic is lightweight, it usually ends up in the ocean which is most times a really huge distance away. Since it is durable, it takes a really long time to degrade when discarded into the environment.

As the demand continues to change, more and more plastic continues to end up in places where it doesn’t belong. Up to 10% of litter eventually ends up as marine trash.

Manufacturing Process

Plastics are made up of organic materials that tend to have repeating carbon chains. When these polymers or organic molecules are produced, they are often referred to as monomers. These monomers then form a series of long chains through the polymerization process.

In other words, the building block is considered as these monomers. Polymers are better known as homopolymers since they tend to have copolymers of identical monomers. Monomers are used in the production process to control the size, or structure of the polymer.

Commonly, monomers such as propylene, ethylene, styrene and vinyl chloride are used to produce plastic. Most if not all of these are made from fossil fuels or petroleum. Most if not all of the plastic products produced in the world come from 6% of the oil produced globally.

Plastics are also produced from plant oils and biomass. However, these are known for creating specially made bio-plastics. Both biomass and oil provide only very basic components used in the process.

When these are created, several solvents are used. These solvents tend to come from a variety of harmful chemicals that are better known as catalysts or initiators. Within the manufacturing process, both are added in very small quantities. However, catalysis is only used if they suit the metals.

Some of these include tin, zinc, titanium, magnesium, and aluminium. At a later stage in the process, the polymer is mixed with additives. Additives are used to alter the end product. The production of plastic is almost always dependent on additives since they can easily produce superior products.

Hence, it is a vital part of creating lasting products. Additionally, since there are thousands of additives, the end results are somewhat limitless. So, if you’re interested in producing plastics, don’t forget the additives for top quality products!