Plastic has a long and interesting history, and it has been a part of our lives for many years. From the earliest forms of plastic to modern-day bioplastics, let’s take a look at the evolution of this versatile material.
The Beginnings of Plastic: The 1800s
The history of plastic begins in the 1800s, when the first form of plastic was created in the form of a synthetic rubber called Gutta-percha. This rubber-like material was derived from the latex of the Palaquium gutta tree, and was used to make a variety of items such as fishing lines and insulation for electrical wires.
In 1839, the first synthetic plastic was created when a British inventor, Alexander Parkes, produced Parkesine, a cellulose-based plastic derived from cellulose. This plastic was not as successful as it was too brittle and flammable, but it was the first successful attempt at creating a synthetic plastic.
The Rise of Plastics: The 1900s
The 1900s saw a rapid increase in the production of synthetic plastics. In 1907, Leo Baekeland created Bakelite, the first fully synthetic plastic. Bakelite was more durable and heat-resistant than previous plastics, and it was used to make a variety of items such as telephones, jewelry, and electrical insulators.
In the 1930s, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) was invented, and this plastic was used to make a variety of items such as pipes, electrical cables, and raincoats. In the 1950s, polyethylene and polypropylene were developed, and these plastics are now used in a wide range of products such as bottles, packaging, and plastic bags.
The Plastics Revolution: The 2000s
The 2000s saw a revolution in the plastics industry, and many new types of plastics were developed. In 2002, polylactic acid (PLA) was invented, which is a biodegradable plastic made from renewable resources such as corn starch and sugar cane. In 2007, polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) were invented, which are bioplastics derived from microbial sources.
In the 2000s, the use of recycled plastics also increased, and many products such as plastic bottles, packaging, and bags are now made from recycled materials. This has helped to reduce the amount of plastic waste going into landfills and has helped to reduce our carbon footprint.
The Future of Plastics
The future of plastics looks bright, and many exciting new developments are being made in the industry. Scientists are developing new types of bioplastics made from plant-based sources, and these bioplastics are more sustainable than traditional plastics.
In addition, scientists are also working on developing new types of plastics that can decompose in the environment, which will help to reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills and the ocean.
Plastic has come a long way since its invention in the 1800s, and it has become an integral part of our lives. The future of plastics looks exciting, and we can only imagine what new materials and products will be available in the future. From the earliest forms of synthetic rubber to modern-day bioplastics, the history of plastic has been fascinating, and it will continue to evolve.