From the moment you wake up and switch on your light to when you brush your teeth at night, you come into contact with an almost countless array of plastic items. And it’s not just light switches and toothbrushes that are made from this versatile material. Anything from bottle caps and packaging to storage tanks, insulation materials and car parts can be made from plastic.
Here are some fascinating facts about this essential material that we bet you didn’t know.
10 facts about plastic that may surprise you
1. The etymology of the word ‘plastic’ is Greek, from the word ‘plastikos’, meaning ‘capable of being moulded or shaped’.
2. The very first type of plastic ever invented was done so by Alexander Parkes in 1856. Known as Parkesine, it was made from a blend of cellulose, solvents and nitric acid. It was highly flammable and thus not particularly sustainable!
3. Ever heard of Bakelite? This was the next type of plastic invented, some years later in 1907, by Leo Hendrik Baekeland. It was used to mould a wide range of items including telephones and appliances.
4. Cellophane – the crinkly wrapping material made from plastic – was created by adding viscose to an acid bath and stretching it into sheets. In 1940, ‘cellophane’ was voted the third-most beautiful English word, after ‘mother’ and ‘memory’.
5. Polyethylene is the most popular and widely used type of plastic, and it’s often used to make plastic bags and bottles.
6. Speaking of plastic bags, they first came into existence in 1941. About 500 billion are used worldwide every year.
7. Knowing that ‘plastic’ means ‘to mold’, it makes sense that plastic surgeons have been so named, as they move and manipulate tissue to change its shape.
8. An adult fleece jacket can be made from 25 recycled PET bottles.
9. In 1969, people first started referring to credit cards as ‘plastic money’. Pity that we have to pay our bills with real money!
10. Recycling is worth it. Recycling one ton of plastic bottles saves 1.5 tons of carbon.
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