Plastic is a mixture containing a base material: a polymer – a long chain of atoms such as carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen – often obtained by the transformation of petroleum and natural gas and various additive substances including stabilisers, flame retardants and dyes.

Use & benefits

Plastic has been a success due to its low cost and the fact that it can be crafted into a large variety of shapes. It is easy to mould, lightweight, airtight, insulating, elastic and extremely resistant. Its properties have not only made it the big winner of the packaging market but also a key competitor of metallic components, often more expensive, more sensitive to corrosion and heavier, or of wood. Plastic production thus increased from 1.5 million tonnes in 1950 [6] to over 322 million tonnes in 2015 [7] .

Waste recovery

The useful life of a plastic object varies depending on its use. For example, packaging, which represents over 30% of the plastic produced, has a lifetime of under six months (i.e. it is useful and used for a maximum of six months), compared to an average of 35 years for building materials.

Once discarded, only 20% of global plastic is recovered, i.e. recycled or used to produce energy [ 5] . The rest is deposited in landfills or is lost in the environment. This low percentage of waste recovery is due to the difficulty in cleaning and separating the various components of plastic. From an environmental point of view, recycling is the cleanest and most sustainable form of recovery as it limits raw material extraction thanks to the reutilisation of used products. That said, it is worth noting that the best waste for our environment is the waste we do not produce.