What are synthetic fibers made up of?

All the synthetic fibers are manufactured by processing raw materials of petroleum origin in a number of ways. The raw materials of petroleum origin are called Petrochemicals.



Why should we not wear synthetic clothes in the kitchen?

Synthetic fibers melt on heating. If the clothes catch fire, the fabric made up of synthetic fibers will melt and stick to one's body. Hence, it is recommended that one should not wear synthetic clothes while working in the kitchen or laboratory.


The word plastic comes from the Greek word “plastikos” which means fit for molding. Plastic is popular because it is cheap to produce and is easy to mould and shape into the desired form. Like synthetic fibers, plastic is also a polymer. Some plastics have a linear arrangement of the units and some have a cross-linked arrangement of the units. Examples: Polythene.

Characteristics of Plastics:

(i) Non-reactive: Not affected by air, water, soil, etc.

(ii) Light, strong and durable: Light, strong and durable and can be moulded into different shapes and sizes.

(iii) Poor Conductors: Do not allow heat and electricity to flow through them.

Effect of Plastics on Environment:

Natural materials like wood and paper are biodegradable (bio = living; degradable = able to break down). In contrast, most plastics do not decay, therefore, they are non-biodegradable. The lightweight nature of Plastics can also be a problem. The burning of plastics also releases poisonous fumes into the atmosphere. This way plastics pollute the environment. Plastic is a polymer (like synthetic fiber) that can be moulded into different shapes. The word ‘plastic’ originates from the Greek word ‘plastikos’ which means ‘that can be moulded or shaped.

Plastic polymers can have different types of arrangement of monomers:

Types of Plastics:

1. Thermoplastics

The polymers in which the intermolecular forces of attraction are intermediary to those of elastomers and fibers are called thermoplastics. Thermoplastics can be formed into any shape by heating. Example: Polythene, PVC, Teflon, etc. Uses: They are used in making toys, combs, containers, etc.

2. Thermosetting polymers

The polymers which on heating change irreversibly into hard, rigid, and infusible
materials are called thermoplastics. Once they are moulded they cannot be changed into other forms. 
Example: - Bakelite, Melamine. Uses: - They are used in making switches, handles, and utensils. Plastic can be recycled and used. It can also be melted, rolled into sheets, made into wires, and colored.

Some popular types of plastics are:

Plastics as Materials of Choice

Give Reasons Why:

Buckets are made of plastic these days.

Plastic buckets are strong, lightweight, and do not rust.

Bakelite plastic is used to make electrical switches.

Bakelite is a poor conductor of heat and electricity. Hence, they would not give anyone an electric shock when someone touches the switch.

Melamine is used to make crockery.

Melamine is unbreakable, fire-resistant, and tolerates heat better than plastics. Hence, it can be used to make crockery that can hold hot liquids or dishes served in it.

Plastics are used in cars, aircraft and spacecraft.

Plastics are strong, durable, lightweight, and corrosion-resistant.

Chemicals are stored in plastic bottles.

Plastic bottles are lightweight, unbreakable, corrosion-resistant, and are resistant to the action of chemicals. Hence, they are suitable for storing chemicals.

Which plastic is used to make:

Non-stick coating on Cookware: Teflon

Insulation covering on Wires: PVC

Polythene Bags: Polythene

Flame-resistant Uniforms: Melamine

Special uses of Plastic:

Besides being used in packaging for food and non-food items and several daily-used items (such as furniture, electrical switches, slippers etc.), plastic also has special uses such as:

  • Used in the healthcare industry for packaging of tablets, syringes, doctor's gloves, a number of medical instruments, and threads for stitching wounds.
  • Used to make cookware used in microwave ovens
  • Used as a non-stick coating on cookware (made of a special plastic called Teflon is used on which oil and water do not stick)
  • Used to make the fire-resistant uniform for firefighters (made of Melamine)

Plastics and the Environment

Plastic is a threat to the environment as it is non-biodegradable. Its disposal is a big problem.

Biodegradable: Material that gets decomposed through natural processes (such as bacterial action) is called Biodegradable.

Non-biodegradable: Material that cannot be easily decomposed by natural processes is called Non-biodegradable.

How do plastics cause environmental pollution?

Plastics cause pollution as they are non-biodegradable, and release toxic fumes when burnt (and hence, cause air pollution).

5 Rs to Minimize the Environmental Damage caused by Plastic

Refuse: Do not buy things we do not need.

Reduce: Minimize the use of plastics in our daily lives.

Reuse: Reuse the items we already have instead of throwing them away.

Repurpose: If we are not using something, alter or change to use it in a different way.

Recycle: Some plastic waste can be sorted and made into other things in recycling factories. This helps us to reduce our carbon footprint.

How can we minimize pollution caused by plastics at home?

We should use jute, cotton, or paper bags instead of plastics. We also need to minimize the use of plastic in our daily lives (such as using a steel lunch box instead of a plastic one). Also, we should not throw plastics on the road or in the water bodies.