Updated: Mar 23, 2021
Plastics are mostly synthetic materials made from polymers, typically made with Hydrogen, Oxygen, Sulphur, and Nitrogen filling in the spaces.
They can be split into two broad kinds according to how they behave when they are heated: thermoplastics which soften when they're heated and thermosets thermosetting plastics, which never soften after they're initially molded.
So, which is more environmentally sustainable?
Thermoplastics will harden and stay solid when cold, but if you heat it up again later it will soften and melt when thermal energy heat is applied. The long polymer molecules are joined to one another by very weak bonds, these easily break apart when heated and can quickly reform again when the heat is taken away, making thermoplastics easy to melt down and most importantly are 100% recyclable.
They can also dissolve in organic solvents whereas regular plastics cannot be broken down.
Thermosets on the other hand are made from much bigger polymers chains. When they are initially manufactured, they are compressed to form a dense hard structure, when set cannot be broken down.
Thermoplastics are made from raw organic materials, free of lead, solvents that pollute the air and heavy metals making them an environmentally sound solution to other plastics and paints.
Thermoplastics also have a longer life compared to alternative materials because they don’t dent, ding, chip, crack, splinter, or fray. This reduces the need for reapplication or maintenance.
“Plastic is pretty fantastic—we just need to be smarter and more sensible about how we make it, use it, and recycle it when we're done.”
Woodford, Chris. (2017/2020) Plastics. Retrieved from https://www.explainthatstuff.com/plastics.html. [16/02/21]