What is plastic actually made of?

What is plastic made of

What is plastic made of?

Plastic is colorful, durable, long lasting, very useful but it is also polluting and harming our earth.
We are using it every day and mostly just once, but do you actually know what plastic is made of? To understand why plastic is not always the best choice, we need to know what plastic actually is. 

One of the first plastics has been invented in the 16th century already. Its been made of cheese. The one we know and use has been invented in the early 1920s.

Plastic can be made of a variety of materials such as cellulose, coal, natural gas but is now mostly made of crude oil.
Gas and Oil are fossile products, made of algae, plankton and micro organisms over a few 100.000 years and not renewable. That means, if they are taken from our planet they are gone, there not coming back.

All of the oil and gas we are using today, is made of microscopic plants and animals who lived in our ocean millions of years ago. These plants and animals absorbed the energy from the sun and stored this as carbon molecules in their bodies. When they died they sank to the bottom of the sea. Millions of years and a lot of layers of sediments later they get buried deeper and deeper. Heat and pressure began to rise. Now the amount of pressure, the degree of heat and the type of biomass, made the difference if the material became oil or gas. 
After oil and gas was formed some of them got trapped under layers of rock and sand and clay, and these are the places where they nowadays find oil and gas. That means mostly, they need to destroy large areas of wildlife and ocean life. If they have a leak, it goes directly into nature and kills.
And one day, we will run out of gas and oil because we use it quickly, and it would need millions of years to get rebuild. So its not a solution for the future. They even start to fight about areas. Like Danmark, Russia and Canada and now also the USA and Norway, about the Antarctica. They think they will find huge amounts of gas and oil under the ice. And if the ice is melting quicker, the path to those natural non renewable products would become easier. So why actually fight against the melting if this would mean a lot of power and control and wealth for those countries.

Most commonly these days, plastics are made of oil and are non-biodegradable. That means they will stay in the environment as plastic bits, they wont get broken down by microbes.
The process to make plastic out of a material is called polymerisation. Thats why you may hear or read the term polymers when they talk about plastic. Also the word poly (polystyrene).
We have natural polymers that occur in nature (silk, wool, cellulose, starch) and we have synthetic polymeres, plastics, that are made by engineers/scientists. The base of these materials might be natural products, but the end result has a changed structure and is not a natural product and not bio degradable.
Oil made plastics are so cheap that they can be use to make all those throw away products out of it.
A natural material, not renewable but still so cheap?

They don´t rot because most oil made plastics are resistant to chemicals, water and microorganisms.
This means, most plastic products will actually last for ever or if not forever they will last a hundreds or thousands of years. 
They find plastics coming ashore at beautiful beaches, which where from the 50s. Can you imagine that?

Crazy right?
You use a single use plastic spoon for 3 Minutes to eat your ice cream, and this spoon will live for ever. Just because its cheaper to make a throw away non biodegradable plastic spoon than to make a bio degradable one.

Also some sorts of plastic (#3,#6,#7) can develop toxic substances. Not only when they break up into micro plastics while swimming in the ocean (saltwater, UV and other substances modify the plastic), no, also while they are in our house. If they get hot (thats why you should never wash plastic bottles with hot water) and soft (hot water, sun), if you use them for too long. The so called softener make plastics softer, but also more toxic. You will find this also in plastic bottles and toys for your children. So you really should avoid these stuff. Or do you want your child to play with toxins and put this stuff in their mouth?
In the worst case, this substances can cause cancer and infertility.
These toxins in softeners can alter our genetics. Fish in our oceans are becoming more and more females, so scientist actually say it looks like in the future there will be more females than males, result will be we´ll have less and less fish. And nobody knows how it looks like with humans genetics. It might just be the same in the future. 

All these reasons are why we need to refuse and reduce these products. At least refuse the single use plastics, spoons, cups, bottles, bags and use reusable things instead.
Or look out for biodegradable products. These will hopefully come into the stores more and more. And if we buy less non-biodegradable and more bio-degradable this will even happen quicker, because the industry is dependent on customers choices!! OUR Choice, YOUR choice can make a difference.

More infos about plastic:

About toxins in plastic:

You want to dig deeper into plastic? Check out this website:

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