The Most Common Type of Plastic and Their Uses

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As you may be aware, there are several kinds of plastic that are used globally; they vary in terms of size, color, application, and disposal. But what type of plastic is acrylic, is ABS a type of plastic, you may inquire as an informed (and enquiring) consumer. How many types of plastic resins are there? What goods may be produced from recycled plastic? So if you're intrigued about the most common types of plastic and their uses as well as other related information, stay reading!

Common types of plastic and their uses

I. How many types of plastic are there?

How many types of plastic are there in the world? What are the different types of plastic? Find out the most common type of plastic below:

1. Based on the Resin Identification Code (RIC) system 

Plastic is a vital component in the manufacture of numerous different kinds of items, including beverage containers, combs, and water bottles. If you can differentiate them and are familiar with the SPI codes, you will be more equipped to make judgments on recycling.

So how many types of plastic are there? The following is a list of the seven distinct types of plastic available:

Polyethylene Terephthalate Plastic Type (ETE or PET)

PET, often known as polyethylene terephthalate, is a kind of wrinkle-free material. It is distinct from the typical plastic bag we find at the grocery. Due to its potent capacity to stop oxygen from entering and tainting the goods within, this kind of plastic polymer is primarily utilized for food and beverage packaging. Additionally, it aids in preventing the escape of carbon dioxide from carbonated beverages.

Although recycling systems are most likely to accept PET, this form of plastic includes antimony trioxide, a substance that is thought to be carcinogenic and capable of causing cancer in living tissue.

High-Density Polyethylene Plastic Type (HDPE)

High-Density Polyethylene Plastic, or HDPE, is rather unique in comparison to the other varieties because it contains very long, almost unbranched polymer chains, which makes it extremely dense and, thus, stronger and thicker than PET. Frequent usage for HDPE is in supermarket bags, shampoo bottles, opaque milk and drink containers, and prescription bottles.

In addition to being recyclable, HDPE is comparatively more stable than PET. Although some studies have indicated that it may leak additional compounds that resemble estrogen and might affect a person's hormonal system when exposed to UV light, it is still regarded as a safer choice for food and drink consumption.

Polyvinyl Chloride Plastic Type (PVC)

Toys, bubble wrap, cling enclosures, plastic containers, loose-leaf booklets, medical supplies, and surgical tubing are among the common uses for PVC. Prior to PVC's production and disposal is linked to significant health concerns and environmental degradation, this plastic type was the second most commonly used plastic resin in the world (after polyethylene).

In terms of toxicity, PVC is often regarded as one of the most hazardous plastics. Its usage may cause a number of harmful compounds, including bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, lead, carcinogens, mercury, and cadmium, to leak into the environment.

Low-Density Polyethylene Plastic Type (LDPE)

As previously stated, the polyethylene family of plastics is the most popular family worldwide. This form of plastic may be processed extremely easily and inexpensively since it has the simplest chemical structure of any plastic polymer.

Aside from certain squeezable bottles, food storage containers, container lids, and bags (for groceries, dry cleaning, bread, frozen food, newspapers, and waste), LDPE is also used to coat paper milk cartons and cups for hot and cold beverages and also used for wrapping wire and cable.

Polypropylene Plastic Type (PP)

PP is often used for hot food containers since it is stronger and more heat resistant. Between LDPE and HDPE, it has a strong quality in the middle. PP is used in disposable diapers and sanitary pad liners in addition to being used in automobile components and thermal vests.

Although it has all these wonderful characteristics, PP isn't entirely recyclable and may also lead to human hormone disturbance and asthma.

Polystyrene Plastic Type (PS)

The styrofoam that we all often use for food containers, egg cartons, single-use cups and bowls, packaging, and bicycle helmets is called polystyrene (PS).

PS has been known to leak styrene, which is hazardous to the brain and neurological system when it is exposed to hot, greasy meals. Genes, the lungs, the liver, and the immune system could also be impacted. In addition to all of these dangers, PS has a poor rate of recycling.

Miscellaneous plastics

Miscellaneous plastics are plastics that may be layered or combined with other kinds of plastics, such as bioplastics. This category includes all plastics that are not included in the categories listed above.

It is vital to have an understanding of the many kinds of plastic, their resin identification codes, and applications. This is done for the benefit of the environment. When it comes to recycling, you will find that the information presented here will be beneficial in assisting you in making informed decisions.

2. Based on the purpose of use

The creation of plastics requires a combination of chemistry and engineering. Scientists and engineers may develop new polymers that can do an increasing number of tasks as innovation advances.

Consequently, the number of different types of plastics is unclear; nonetheless, manufacturers of plastics often divide plastics into two broad categories: thermoplastics and thermosets.

Thermoplastics

Thermoplastics may be re-melted and, in all practical terms, reverted to their initial condition, in a manner somewhat dissimilar to the manner in which an ice cube can be melted and then refrozen. In most cases, thermoplastics are first manufactured in a separate process, which results in the creation of tiny pellets. These pellets are subsequently heated and shaped in order to manufacture a wide variety of consumer and industrial goods. 

Plastics such as polypropylene, polymer, polycarbonate, styrofoam, polyester, polyvinyl chloride, and others are included in the category of thermoplastics. You are probably already acquainted with these plastics.

Thermosets

Thermosets are often manufactured and then shaped into products at the same time, and once they have been formed, they cannot be restored to their initial condition. 
In most cases, they are produced with the application of heat (also known as "thermo") and eventually "set," much like a cooked egg. Thermosets are composed of a wide variety of materials, including but not limited to vulcanized synthetic rubber, acrylics, polyurethanes, melamine, silicone, and epoxies.

There are also a few other types of plastic, typically:

Engineering plastics

Plastics used in engineering are specifically designed to outperform other materials in terms of their mechanical qualities and often have a longer lifespan. Polycarbonate, for instance, can withstand the force of a collision. Polyamides like nylon withstand abrasion. Some are composites made up of many types of plastic, such as the very robust ABS plastic.

Plastic fibers

Are exactly what they sound like: polymers that have been spun into fibers or filaments to be utilized in producing things like textiles, string, ropes, cables, and even optical fibers and body armor. The majority of plastic fibers are durable, elastic, and temperature resistant even when heated. While there are numerous more types of plastic fibers, several more well-known ones include polyester, nylon, rayon, acrylic, and spandex. 

II. What types of plastic that can be recycled?

Common types of plastic that can be recycled

How many types of recyclable plastics are there? Which type of plastic can be recycled? Below are the details on the following 5 common types of plastic that can be recycled:

Number 1 – Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)

PET is the kind of plastic that gets recycled the most. Nevertheless, despite being a very simple plastic to recycle, certain nations continue to have trouble achieving respectable recycling rates. South Korea, Europe, and India all have rates that are greater than 50%, but the US and China haven't yet surpassed such levels.
According to the most recent data available, around 7.5 million tons of PET were collected globally in 2011. Polar fleece clothing, backpacks, and rugs are a few of the available things. Yes, the plastic bottle you recycle now might one day become a stylish t-shirt you wear soon!

In fact, during this recycling process, PET is converted into flakes that may later be spun into yarn. And after that, clothing and other textile garments are made using these yarns.

Number 2 – High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

Products made of HDPE are often collected by recycling businesses and sent to sizable facilities for processing. The recycling rate for HDPE bottles in the US is around 30%.

Similar to PET, HDPE may be translucent or colored. The main markets for post-consumer recycled natural HDPE are film packaging and bottles for non-food applications including detergent, motor oil, home cleansers, etc. On the other hand, pipe, lawn items, and non-food application jars are among the markets for colored HDPE post-consumer recycled resin.

Additionally, HDPE is frequently downcycled into fibreboard, desks, roadside barriers, chairs, and other tough plastic goods. Downcycling is a recycling technique that includes reusing materials for lower-value products.

Number 3 – Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

Sadly, plastic number 3, often known as polyvinyl chloride, cannot be recycled in regular waste collections.

Number 4 – Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

Plastic-type #4, sometimes referred to as low-density polyethylene, is the substance used to manufacture the notorious plastic bags that are distributed by supermarkets and other shops. LDPE may technically be recycled. But as was already said, just because something can be recycled doesn't guarantee that it will. For instance, plastic bags often tangle in recycling equipment, putting the whole recycling process in jeopardy.

Additionally, since LDPE is such a cheap and poor-quality plastic, recycling it is not actually profitable. As a result, LDPE won't be accepted in curbside recycling bins by many towns. Despite these challenges, LDPE may be recycled and used in packaging films and bin liners.

Number 5 – Polypropylene (PP)

The last type of plastic for recycling is polypropylene, generally known as PP. Despite being among the most widely used plastic packaging materials globally, only around 1-3% of PP gets recycled in the US, meaning the majority of PP ends up in landfills. It takes around 20 to 30 years for it to totally dissolve when it declines slowly.

Above is the answer to the question “What type of plastic is recyclable?”. So, on the other hand, which type of plastic cannot be recycled? Finally, plastics number 6 (Polystyrene) and 7 (Others) are types of plastics that can not be recycled.

III. What is the strongest type of plastic?

PAI, also known as polyamide-imide, has a tensile strength of 21,000 pounds per square inch, making it the strongest plastic available. This high-performance plastic possesses the greatest strength of any unreinforced thermoplastic, as well as excellent wear and radiation resistance, naturally low flammability, and high thermal stability. 

In addition, PAI is very thermally stable. Engines, valves, gears, electrical connections, and thrust washers are all made from PAI components in various capacities.

IV. Which type of plastic is more friendly to the environment?

Type of plastic that is friendly to the environment

Companies all across the world are switching to a variety of "eco-friendly" plastics for their goods and packaging as they sense that customers are becoming weary of newly pressed petrochemical plastics. But what does that term mean?

Eco-friendly plastics are by definition a class of engineered polymers intended to degrade or be recycled repeatedly. The three subgroups of this category are typically bioplastics, biodegradable plastics, and recycled plastics.

Bioplastics

Bioplastics are a class of polymers that may degrade spontaneously and were made using renewable resources. Polylactic acid (PLA), polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), and novel new materials like Notpla, a seaweed-based solution, are examples of bio-based (also known as "plant-based") plastics. Starch-based polymers manufactured from potatoes or maize, polylactic acid (PLA), and PHA are further examples.

Related: What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of bioplastics

A specific one of them, PLA (made from maize), is swiftly gaining favor with makers. It consumes one-third less energy to make than conventional plastics, releases 70% less greenhouse gasses when it breaks down in landfills, and cuts emissions all around by at least 25%. 

Recycled plastics

Materials made from recycled plastics include various amounts of post-consumer petroleum-based plastics. Circular materials may be used, such as PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles that can be recycled to create new PET bottles. As an example, HDPE (high-density polyethylene) supermarket bags may be downcycled into deck planks or park seats.

Like other conventional plastics, recycled plastic goods are not recognized as biodegradable. However, many businesses have deliberately opted to increase the percentages of recycled material used for new goods to lower their carbon footprints since they are aware of the surplus of virgin plastics that enter US landfills each year (27 million tons).

V. Which type of plastic is flame resistant?

To name a type of plastic that is flame resistant, it is absolutely melamine. Melamine is a material that resists fire and heat better than other polymers. It is used to create cookware that is unbreakable, ashtrays, fire-resistant clothing, and floor tiles. In microwave ovens, certain plastic cookware composed of melamine is used to cook food.

Related: Common types of halogen-free flame additives

Melamine is also a poor heat conductor and a fire-resistant material. Many synthetic fibers are poor heat and electrical conductors. Because melamine is flame resistant, it is utilized as a coating for firemen's clothing. 

VI. High-quality plastic materials from Europlas (EuP)

European Plastics Joint Stock Company (EuP) is the world's leading plastic filler manufacturer based in Vietnam. Europlas is confident to be a supplier of a wide variety of plastic materials suitable for many uses. Currently providing a variety of plastic additives, bioplastics, color masterbatch, compound engineering plastics, filler masterbatch, and bio filler.

All materials and production processes of Europlas have been tested for quality and are trusted by thousands of customer partners from many countries around the world. Using our products is the perfect solution to complete your company's plastic pipes through cost savings, increased productivity, and improved pipe characteristics.

Contact Europlas for the earliest advice!

 

 
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