What is Plastic, Types and Classifications

By | May 28, 2017

What is Plastic, Types and Classifications-Plastic is a material consisting of any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic compounds that are malleable and can be molded into solid objects. Plastics are typically organic polymers of high molecular mass, but they often contain other substances.

Plastic Types: Plastic is mainly of two types – Thermoplastics and Thermosetting

  • Thermoplastics: These are described as plastics that can be reformed using heat: this plastic has a memory, it returns to its original flat shape when re-heated.

Examples are: Acrylic, ABS, Styrene

  • Thermosetting: These are described as plastics that do not reform using heat, they “SET” and cannot be reshaped.

Examples are: Urea formaldehyde, Melamine, Polyester resin

What is Plastic, Types and Classifications

What is Plastic, Types and Classifications

Plastic Classifications


The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) established a classification system in 1988 to allow consumers and recyclers to identify different types of plastic. These are categorized into different seven categories.

  1. PET: Polyethylene Terephthalate sometimes absorbs odours and flavours from foods and drinks that are stored in them. Items made from this plastic are commonly recycled. PET(E) plastic is used to make many common household items like beverage bottles, medicine jars, rope, clothing and carpet fibre.
  2. HDPE: High-Density Polyethylene products are very safe and are not known to transmit any chemicals into foods or drinks. HDPE products are commonly recycled. Items made from this plastic include containers for milk, motor oil, shampoos and conditioners, soap bottles, detergents, and bleaches. It is NEVER safe to reuse an HDPE bottle as a food or drink container if it didn’t originally contain food or drink.
  3. V: Polyvinyl Chloride is sometimes recycled. PVC is used for all kinds of pipes and tiles, but is most commonly found in plumbing pipes. This kind of plastic should not come in contact with food items as it can be harmful if ingested.
  4. LDPE: Low-Density Polyethylene is sometimes recycled. It is a very healthy plastic that tends to be both durable and flexible. Items such as cling-film, sandwich bags, squeezable bottles, and plastic grocery bags are made from LDPE.
  5. PP: Polypropylene is occasionally recycled. PP is strong and can usually withstand higher temperatures. It is used to make lunch boxes, margarine containers, yogurt pots, syrup bottles, prescription bottles. Plastic bottle caps are often made from PP.
  6. PS: Polystyrene is commonly recycled, but is difficult to do. Items such as disposable coffee cups, plastic food boxes, plastic cutlery and packing foam are made from PS.
  7. OTHERS: Code 7 is used to designate miscellaneous types of plastic not defined by the other six codes. Polycarbonate and Polylactide areincluded in this category. These types of plastics are difficult to recycle. Polycarbonate (PC) is used in baby bottles, compact discs, and medical storage containers.

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