The history of plastics

Goals

To have historical, statistical and interesting data points on the plastics industry in order to write a blog post on it.

Early Findings

Plastics - Overview

  • Plastics first appeared in 1862, at an exhibition in London. These plastics were made of Parkesine and invented by Alexander Parkes to substitute ivory. They were in the form of knife handles, medallions, and combs.
  • Bakelite was invented in 1907, and was the first totally synthetic plastic. It would mostly be used in electronic devices.
  • In 1939 DuPont released nylon for use in hosiery, but at the time it was instead rationed by the U.S. military for parachutes and ropes.
  • In the 1950s plastics were used more commonly in furniture and clothing.
  • Plastic packaging makes for a light way to transport goods.

Odd facts

  • Galalith is a type of plastic that is basically made from milk.
  • There is a species of fungus from the Amazon that feeds only on plastic.
  • In Turkey, commuters are topping up their travel cards using plastic bottles.

Current situation

  • If the plastics industry maintains its current growth rate, global plastics-waste volumes will likely grow from 260 million tons per year in 2016 to 460 million tons per year by 2030.
  • According to the US plastics lobby, which is opposed to plastic bag bans, plastic bags sustain 30,900 jobs in the US.
  • There are over 400 bills in various states in the US that are seeking to curb plastics pollution.
  • In 2017, global plastics production reached 348 million tonnes.
  • One fifth of plastics production (18.5 percent) takes place in Europe - putting it in second place after China (29.4 percent) and just ahead of the NAFTA countries (17.7 percent).

Looking ahead

  • With growing awareness of plastics in the ocean and concern for climate change, the plastics industry is facing serious challenges.
  • Increased demand for recycleble plastics is seeing the chemicals industry trying to go beyond the use-once approach and is "embracing an expanded definition of product stewardship that includes dealing with plastics waste. "
In addition to this public search, we scanned our proprietary research database of over 1 million sources and were unable to find any specific research reports that address your goals.

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