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What are the important facts about plastics?
Question Date: 2015-12-07
Answer 1:

In my opinion, one of the most important facts about plastics is that the way we make them determines how they behave.

Plastics are made of "organic" materials, which means for the most part they all contain the element carbon along with hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and a few others. You can make plastics different from one another just by changing whether a carbon is only bonded with hydrogen or maybe a carbon is bonded with another carbon. The plastic that makes Tupperware has carbons next to an extra carbon rather than all hydrogen while many plastic grocery bags have more hydrogens next to carbon.

Besides just changing the elements that make the plastic molecules, you can also change how the material is processed - how it's heated and cooled and stretched and squished while it's being made. Styrofoam is kind of squishy because bubbles of gas are trapped inside while it's being made. But red plastic cups, which are hard, are made of the same plastic but processed differently.

Plastics can be soft or hard. They can be strong and hard to break or weak and crack easily. They can be light weight or really heavy. They can bend and stretch or they can be stiff. They can melt when heated or be strong even at high heat. There are many types of plastics and so keeping the facts straight about plastics might be hard, but one good thing to know is that the large variety of plastics is due the ability of scientists and engineers to control the properties while making the material.

Answer 2:

Plastics are made from carbon-based polymers. A polymer is a molecule that has many identical or similar repeating units. In the case of plastics, the repeating units are usually carbon chains with other common elements including hydrogen and oxygen. Generally these materials are man-made and are petrochemicals (chemicals derived from petroleum or natural gas), however, plastics are now also sometimes made from plant materials. Polymers are known for being flexible and moldable, which is extremely useful for producing the large variety and function of plastic products that we use.

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