A History of Modern Plastic Products
Though humans have used natural polymers like horn, rubber and cellulose for centuries, the modern history of plastics began in 1907 with the patenting of Bakelite, a petroleum-based synthetic. During the next three decades, foundational modern plastics emerged as versatile, pale-colored materials produced from petrochemical processes.
With the advent of World War II and a scarcity of natural products, synthetic plastics became essential to the war effort. Nylon was used for parachutes, ropes and protective gear, while Plexiglas, other rigid plastics and synthetic coatings emerged as indispensable components for the manufacture of aircraft and naval vessels. After the war, the design versatility and durability of plastics made these new materials ideal for post-war manufacturing of housing, automobiles and consumer goods. Excess manufacturing capacity, low costs, and the abundance of fossil fuels ensured their place in the post-war expansion.
Mid-Century Design & Plastics in the Consumer Market
Plastics were used extensively during the 1950s in what has become known as the mid-century modern design style. Just as the art deco style of the 1930s incorporated flowing, streamlined designs made of plastic, mid-century modern furniture, electronics and building materials made use of newly developed “space-age” materials with bright colors, sleek designs and a blend of metal, wood and plastic. During the next two decades, a steady stream of new and improved plastic consumer products hit the market, including:
- Laminated plastics
- Portable transistor radios
- Medical disposables
- Styrofoam containers & cups
- Synthetic clothing & shoes
- Teflon-coated cookware
- Plastic moldings & blinds
- Vinyl building components
- Plastic packaging & tape
- Recording tapes & cases
The Rise of Disposables
The dramatic increase in the number of employed women during the 1970s and 1980s coincided with advancements in distribution capabilities. Families had less time and more income, making disposable products and single-use food containers attractive conveniences. Plastics provided an effective, sanitary and low-cost way to package and distribute single servings of hot or cold foods, water, soft drinks and snacks.
In recent decades, the proliferation of plastic packaging has created a crisis in landfills and waterways. Now, however, plastics are also emerging as a part of the solution. Manufacturers are incorporating recycled plastics, bio-plastics and biodegradable compounds in their products for more eco-friendly disposal and greater sustainability.
Preferred Plastics is committed to environmentally responsible manufacturing processes. Allow us to help you select eco-friendly plastic compounds for your next project. Call 269-685-5873 or contact us here to discuss our high quality, high-volume extrusion services in Kentucky and Michigan.