• Question: what is the molecule structure of plastic

    Asked by robyn to Lauren, Joseph, Eoin, Colm on 20 Nov 2013.
    • Photo: Joseph Roche

      Joseph Roche answered on 20 Nov 2013:

      Plastics are made from polymers, which are chains of carbon (and sometimes with some oxygen, sulfur, or nitrogen too). By changing these chains we can manipulate plastic into whatever form we like with varying properties. This has made plastic a very useful material to humans. But occasionally we make too much of a useful substance without thinking through how we’re going to dispose of it afterwards 🙁

    • Photo: Lauren Mc Keown

      Lauren Mc Keown answered on 21 Nov 2013:

      Plastics are divided into two types of long chains – “linear” ones where carbon makes up the backbone chains, and ones where oxygen or nitrogen for example are also contained in the backbone chains as well as carbon. Some of these can contain benzene rings which are drawn like a circle within a hexagon on the molecular structure diagrams for these plastics. Plastics are quite strong materials and usually begin with a “poly” before their name. As Joe said, we need to be careful with recycling our plastics as a lot of problems for the environment have been caused by the dumping of plastics – especially for poor fish who have gotten caught in such plastic waste as the 6-pack ring holders for cans 🙁