Plastic is all around us! Often we think of plastics as containers like drink bottles, yogurt cups, or soap dispensers. But many more things are made with plastic, too! Most computers use plastic, furniture pieces like chairs are often made from plastic, and even lots of cars are made with plastic!
Because they’re lightweight, easily molded into shapes or dyed into colors, and strong, plastics are a good choice for lots of different needs. They also last a long time and are less likely than many other materials to corrode (weaken) when they come into contact with certain substances.
Plastic is a man-made product that doesn’t occur naturally on its own. Almost all plastics are made from oil by a special procedure that changes the oil’s carbon. Carbon is an element, and oil naturally has lots of them. (Even though they’re too small for you to see.)
While plastic has many benefits, one frequently cited problem with this useful material is that it’s usually not biodegradable (able to naturally decompose) and so if it’s thrown away instead of recycled, it can create a lot of waste. To help with the problem, lots of recycling programs have become easily available and many scientists and researchers are looking for ways to make plastics more biodegradable. Neat!