How is Plastic Made?

How is Plastic Made?

What is plastic?

Plastic is defined as any organic, synthetic or semi-synthetic polymer that is permanently composed of carbon and hydrogen, and it may contain other elements other than them, and the term plastic refers to the property of plasticity and the ability to deform without breaking.


The manufacture of plastic begins with the process of extraction. Whereby raw materials from which plastic is made are extracted, and these materials include oil, natural gas, and coal. It is noteworthy that these materials represent a mixture of thousands of compounds that then require processing.

Refining Process

This aims to convert crude oil into various petroleum products; as monomers, which represent the basic building block for the production of polymers. The refining process goes through several stages that include heating the oil in a furnace, and then passing it to the distillation unit.  Then heavy crude oil is separated into lighter components; including naphtha, which represents the main compound for the manufacture of large quantities of plastic. There are other methods used if natural gas is used to produce plastic.


The polymerization process refers to the chemically combining of small molecules called monomers to produce a very large lattice molecule called a polymer. Molecules of monomers are composed of one or more types of compounds. At least 100 of them are combined to produce a product with unique and specific properties; Such as flexibility, high tensile strength, in addition to the ability to produce fibres. This is a special advantage for polymers over other materials resulting from the union of small molecules, and the polymerization process itself is characterized by the production of stable covalent chemical bonds between monomers. The polymerization process is divided into two basic types;

  1. Addition Polymerization; the addition polymerization occurs when a two-molecule polymer called a dimer combines with a polymer immediately followed by a type called a trimmer. Any three-molecule polymer, by introducing a catalyst, usually peroxide, and this type of polymerization is known as chain growth polymers; this is because one unit of monomer is added at a time. Examples of plastics produced using this type of polymerization are; Polyethylene, polystyrene, and polyvinyl chloride.
  2. Condensation Polymerization; Condensation polymerization is defined as the bonding of two or more monomer units by removing small molecules; Like water, the process also requires the presence of a catalyst in order to ensure that the reaction between the monomer units takes place, and this type of polymerization is called gradual growth; This is because an existing chain is added to another chain of monomers. Examples of plastics produced using this type of polymerization include; polyester and nylon.

Compounding and processing

The multiplication process includes mixing and blending a different group of melted and molten materials in order to produce plastic formulations. Where this process is carried out using an extruder dedicated for that purpose, and then followed by a drying process for the mixture, where the extrusion device or those pellets are converted into a final or semi-finished product. Usually What happens to plastics is molded using a twin-screw extruder, where processing processes are applied to produce plastics with unique design, specific size, shape, color, and precise properties according to pre-set conditions in the processing machine.

Types of plastic

There are many different types of plastic, but plastic products can be divided into two main groups, as follows;

  • Thermoplastics polymers – Thermoplastic polymers are soft when heated, and then harden when cooled.
  • Thermoset polymers – Thermoplastic rigid polymers have the advantage that they never soften once formed.

Uses of plastic

  • Construction – Plastic materials can be used to design long-term, sustainable and durable building materials in the field of construction and infrastructure e.g. Bridges.
  • Automotive design – Plastics have contributed too many innovations in automotive design, particularly in terms of safety, performance, and fuel efficiency.
  • Electronics Manufacturing – The use of durable, lightweight and affordable plastics has revolutionized the world of electronic devices, including computers, televisions, mobiles, microwaves, and more.
  • Goods packaging – Packaging goods with plastic products helped protect and preserve them, and this also contributes to reducing weight during transportation, which leads to reduced fuel use, which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Sports Safety – Plastics are used in the manufacture of sports safety equipment in order to protect and preserve the head, feet and bones from impact; such as plastic helmets, mouth guards, and goggles.

Why is plastic harmful to the planet?

Plastic is harmful to the planet due to a variety of reasons and things. They are as follows;

Plastic is an unsustainable material

Many types of plastic materials are not recyclable. Plastic is also made from unsustainable materials, including oil, natural gas, and coal, and the plastic manufacturing process itself is harmful to the environment.

Slow decomposition of plastic

Need plastic material for a long-time decomposition and filtration of toxic substances such as take 1,000 years or more than that for the decomposition of landfill waste and plastic does not decompose when completely disappears; It breaks down into fine particles called micro plastics, and it is noteworthy that some plastics are biodegradable, as they can be converted into fertilizer, but the production process is expensive.

Plastic is dangerous to wildlife

Thousands of seabirds, sea turtles, and other marine mammals die every year. This is a result of eating the plastic materials dumped in those water bodies, or that these organisms cling to those products, many marine creatures are threatened with extinction, for example, the monk seals in Hawaii and the loggerhead sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean.

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