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What Are Plastics Made of, And Why Were They Created?

Publish On 31, Aug 2023 | What Are Plastics Made of, And Why Were They Created?

Plastic is a synthetic material that has come to replace the use of natural resources. It is primarily derived from crude oil or natural gas, which undergo a distillation process leading to a reaction known as polymerization. This process involves combining compounds to form large, long-chain molecules, resulting in plastic. Different types of plastics employ polymer additives and quality enhancers to achieve specific properties tailored to the requirements of the desired plastic products.


The History of Humanity and Plastic

Over the past century, the world has witnessed significant breakthroughs that have exceeded the moon landing by Apollo 11, the invention of the polio vaccine, the discovery of nuclear fission, and the advent of the internet. These breakthroughs also include “plastic.” This extraordinary material invention has revolutionized the business landscape and helped elevate the quality of life since the 1960s. However, in just a few recent years, it has been widely accused of being one of the main culprits of environmental waste problems, and its villainous status as a destroyer of nature and living things continues to be perpetuated with ongoing reproduction.


Billiard Ball the first synthetic plastic


‘Plastic’ – The Remarkable Material Born from Good Intentions

John Wesley Hyatt endeavored to find a substitute material for elephant ivory, which was used for manufacturing billiard balls, a highly popular sport at the time. This led to excessive hunting of wild elephants in Africa and Asia for their tusks, almost leading to their extinction. Consequently, an American billiard ball manufacturer announced a reward of USD 10,000 for anyone who could find a substitute for elephant ivory for billiard ball production. This led to the creation of the world’s first semi-synthetic plastic material known as celluloid. It was later developed for use in piano keys instead of elephant ivory and combs instead of animal horns. It became the genesis of the film in the movie and photography industries.


Celluloid film

In a subsequent era, Leo Baekeland endeavored to synthesize various compounds to produce a new adhesive, durable and lightweight material. This material was later named “Bakelite” in his honor. This pioneering plastic revolutionized society at the time, as it could be molded into many different items, such as electrical wire insulators, electrical appliance parts, and different ornaments. Thus, Bakelite was often referred to as ‘The Material of a Thousand Uses.’


the first plastic bag


The Origin of Plastic Bag

In 1965, the ‘T-shirt plastic shopping bag,’ designed by Sten Gustaf Thulin, showcased the remarkable properties of plastic. It was a new material intended to replace natural resources and needed to be easy to produce to meet societal demands. It was also durable, helping to reduce deforestation caused by the extensive use of wood in paper bag production.


Plastic’s unique ability to adjust its properties for various applications is a testament to its versatility. Simply by adding certain additives, plastic can be creatively transformed in countless ways, whether waterproofing, heat resistance, lightweight properties, or even the ability to change its shape, color, and appearance beautifully. The plastic manufacturing process also uses less water and energy, making it more cost-effective. As a result, plastic has become a ‘hot’ material, widely used in various sectors, from everyday household items to electrical equipment parts, car bumpers and automotive parts, water pipes, and even medical equipment.

plastic waste

The Challenging Issue for Thailand and the World

The depletion of natural resources has raised increasing concerns worldwide. As a result, plastic has become the material of choice for the modern era. However, no one could have predicted that this shift to plastic usage would mark the beginning of the global environmental crisis we face today. The surge in industrial production has led to the creation of a wide array of types of products, including plastics, in large quantities. As society leans towards a consumerism culture, the usage and disposal rate of items has unavoidably increased. The concept of reusing items is often overlooked, primarily because people fail to realize that our resources are rapidly dwindling. A ticking time bomb, threatening nature and future generations, has begun its countdown.


The circular economy has become the cornerstone of conducting business with environmental and sustainable considerations. SCGC is committed to continuously driving the circular economy with real, tangible actions by developing innovative and environmentally-friendly plastic solutions. For instance, designing from the onset to make plastics more recyclable, reducing resource usage during production while increasing material efficiency, and recycling used plastics to be repurposed as new raw materials. All these efforts aim at ensuring that plastics – a world-changing material science innovation – are used sustainably.


SCGC Green polymer


Let’s look at an example of SCGC’s commitment to implementing the principles of the circular economy in their business operations. SCGC has developed an environmental-friendly plastic innovation called SCGC GREEN POLYMER™, which aligns with the principles of the circular economy. This covers four aspects: REDUCE – reducing resource usage, RECYCLABLE – design for recyclability, RECYCLE – implement recycling and RENEWABLE – developing environmentally friendly biocompostable compounds and bioplastics made from renewable resources.


All Around Plastics.
Editor. at SCG Chemicals.

All Around Plastics magazine

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