Polymers and Plastics

Traditional Plastics

Classical plastics produced from fossil resources find use in multitude areas of life. Primary property of products made from plastics is their mass, which is very low in comparison to other materials. That is because plastics have relatively low density. Moreover plastics show excellent thermal insulating and electro insulating properties. Plastics are also resistant to corrosion. Many plastics are transparent, and can therefore have many uses in optical devices.
Plastics can be formed in different shapes, and they can be mixed with other materials. Furthermore their properties can be easily altered and tailored by adding: strengthening fillers, pigments, foaming agents and plasticizers.
Due to plastics universality, they are used in almost every area of life. Most widespread uses include packaging, constructions, transport, electric and electronic industry, agriculture, medicine and sport. The fact that their usage possibilities are virtually unlimited and that their properties could be adapted to any requirements, is an easy answer to a question as to why plastics are the source of innovations in all life areas. All this is possible thanks to manydifferent types of plastics available on the market. The “big six” plastics in the market are:

  • Polyethylene – which include low density polyethylene (LDPE), linear low density polyethylene (LLPPE) and high density polyethylene (HD-PE)
  • Polypropylene (PP)
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
  • Polystyrene (solid – PS and expanded/foamed – EPS)
  • Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
  • Polyurethane (PUR)

Combined they make up about 80 % of demand for plastics in Europe. Top three plastic groups in the market are: polyethylene (29 %), polypropylene (19 %) and polyvinyl chloride (12 %).
In 2011 global production of plastics has reached 280 million tons. Production is experiencing a steady increase average of about 9 % per year from 1950s.  In 2011 plastics production in Europe reached 58 million tons (which in turn makes up a 21 % of global production). The biggest worldwide producer (China) reached 23 % of global production. In the long term, it is forecasted that 4 % growth of consumption per capita is going to take effect. Despite high consumption in Asia and by the new members of EU, the level of consumption in these countries is still much lower than in well developed countries. [1]

[1]  Tworzywa sztuczne – fakty, 2011. Analiza produkcji, zapotrzebowania oraz odzysku tworzyw sztucznych w Europie, 2010.http://www.plastics.pl.

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