How Do You Define Plastics?

A question asked in an industry forum starts an open-ended discussion about something that affects everyone’s lives. 
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So how do you define plastics? It is something everyone in moldmaking and molding deals with on a daily basis, and yet, according to a new discussion posted on the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) forum called The Chain, there is an apparent need to explain it, to codify it. 

Here is the post that a fellow SPE member shared last week: 

“I got an interesting question from an economist in D.C. today and thought I'd reach out to all of you for an answer:

What is the academic definition of plastics? Is there a U.S. industry definition of plastics? I am not aware of a definition of plastics that is codified - as in referenced in the US Code of Federal Regulations. How is plastics defined by SPE?

I referenced one of the texts my husband has used as faculty at 2 universities: Plastics Materials and Processing by Strong: p.1 ‘Plastics does not have a commonly agreed-upon definition.’”


Defining Plastics Through the Generations

One response that came through The Chain almost immediately offered this: “Great question, but it can be answered differently by every generation or person associated with plastics. My definition is plastic is my life work, injection molded plastics mold design and build, that is.”

This woman mold designer took the time to find the U.S. Industry Code of Federal Regulations, general definition, which can be found here:  https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/40/463.2. Upon reviewing the information at this link, I made a couple of quick conclusions and wonder if others would agree. They are:

  1. This is a very “academic” definition but not a very positive one, and not very focused on defining just plastics and the role it plays today.
  2. It is also a rather boring way to define plastics and, if that’s the best there is, how can younger generations brought up on consuming mass quantities of products made out of plastics while at the same time being concerned about how it affects the environment ever learn the truth about it?

This mold designer also mentions that she recently received a 1947 copy of the Society of the Plastics Industry’s (now the Plastics Industry Association) handbook from a colleague who retired. While she treasures the gift for historical purposes, how can it possibly begin to define plastics today? 

Plastics are here to stay, and programs like the Plastics Industry Association’s This is Plastics website and program can help our industry define itself for the better. We need to work together to do a better job of building a positive image.

So I ask you, MMT readers. How do YOU define plastics? Please let me hear from you!