Plastic Raw Materials

Plastic Raw Materials

What are the raw materials of plastic?

Today, plastics are mainly made from natural materials such as cellulose, coal, natural gas, salt and crude oil through the process of polymerization or polycondensation. It is predicted that in the future, plastics will increasingly be made from waste, renewable materials or CO2.

In the production of plastic, various raw materials are used, which are refined into ethane and propane. After heat reaches these materials, a process called cracking occurs, which turns them into ethylene and propylene. Plastics are polymers, which means they are created by linking together a chain of molecules known as monomers to form a larger molecule than what was originally there (polymer). Polymers are strong and durable due to their connections.

Plastic from cellulose

Cellulosic plastics are actually bioplastics that are produced by processing cellulose or cellulose derivatives into plastic. Cellulosic plastics are made from softwood trees, which are used as raw materials. After extracting the tree bark, it can be used as an energy source in the production process. The tree is processed or heated in a digester to separate the cellulose fibers from the rest of the tree fiber.

Soft wood is considered as the most common raw material used in the production of cellulose plastics. Among the limitations of cellulosic plastic manufacturing, we can mention anti-deforestation laws and the low cost of conventional plastics, which reduces the growth of cellulosic plastics business.

Plastic made from natural gas

Natural gas is the starting point for the production of a large part of plastic production. The cracker factory was the first to use natural gas to make plastic. Naphtha (a product based on crude oil) and ethane (natural gas liquid) are converted to ethylene in the cracking operation. Ethylene is used as a starting point for a wide range of chemical and plastic products.

A pipeline is then used to transport the ethylene produced during the cracking process to another facility, where it is converted into a usable commodity, often polyethylene. Polyethylene is the most widely used plastic today and it is the polymer that is mostly used in the packaging industry.

Crude oil as raw material

Petroleum-based plastics are made from synthetic organic polymers derived from oil or natural gas and are used in almost every aspect of modern society, including homes, workplaces, and automobiles. Global production of petroleum-based plastics exceeded 322 million tons in 2015, up from 1.7 million tons the previous year.

The use of petroleum-based plastics for various applications, especially medical, industrial, commercial and urban, has increased steadily. Although these types of plastics can be broken, they are not able to decompose by themselves due to their high stability.

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