Choosing Plastics

ChrisDifferent plastics have different properties - they can be tough, bendy hard or soft. They can also be made very thick, or thin enough to weave into cloth.

Many of them have funny names, but often they are known by their initials.

Here are some examples to take a look at:

Fleece jacketPolyester is a plastic that can be made into thin fibres. It is light and warm. It makes a great material for fleece jackets.

This fire-proof suit contains a plastic called melamine. It protects the person from the fire.

Fire-proof suit

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Blood bagsPVC is a plastic used in hospitals for things like blood transfusion bags and tubes, because it can be made very flexible.

PVC can also be made hard and water-proof to be used for window frames, doors and water pipes.

Porch on house

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PhonesTelephones, televisions and computers are often made from a plastic called Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene - what a mouthful!

Thankfully it is usually shortened to 'ABS'.

Another plastic, polyurethane, can also be moulded to make the hard outer cases for televisions and computers. It protects the electronics inside.


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BottlesHDPE (thick polyethene) is used to make bottles for shampoo, milk and cleaners. It is used a lot, and is one that is often recycled.

Polycarbonate is used to make compact discs. It can also be used for car lights and spectacles, because it doesn't shatter like glass does - and it is much lighter on your nose!.

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Compact Disc

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Smart CarThis Smart Car has its body made out of plastic. It is very light, which saves fuel, and does not scratch easily.

Polyethene can be used for food packaging or sandwich bags. Expanded polystyrene is used to make the trays for food packaging.

Food packagingLet's try to work out which plastic to use for some special jobs:

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