Know your plastics!

By Femke Wouda


Plastic is all around us and you can no longer think of it out of our lives. Our food is packaged in plastic, many toys for children are made of plastic, our cleaning products are packaged in plastic bottles and plastic is even widely used in medicine. We could go on and on… A lot of stuff is made of plastic, but can all this plastic be reused? Fortunately, more and more manufacturers are taking responsibility and sharing information on how best to separate their products. This is to strive for a fully circular economy.


What is plastic?

What exactly is plastic? Plastics are actually chemical compounds that are created by unnatural chemical processes. Plastic is made up of very large molecules. Plastic is made from hydrocarbons from petroleum. The petroleum is first “cracked”. The petroleum is heated in this process in the so-called cracking chamber. The large molecular chains are broken into small chains. This happens because the bond between the carbon atoms is broken. A catalytic converter speeds up the cracking. Propene and ethylene are formed during cracking. By polymerizing these substances, the basis for plastic is created.

Nowadays plastic is also made from renewable raw materials. In addition to petroleum, you also have more sustainable alternatives such as renewable mass, such as corn, sugar cane, wheat or edible oils. More on that later. 


Now a little history lesson: around 1908 the first plastic was invented, this was bakelite. This is the first synthetic plastic, made from synthetic resin based on formaldehyde and phenol. Bakelite was used, among other things, in electrical engineering, but was also used, for example, in making the old-fashioned black telephones with a rotary dial and separate receiver. About 17 years later, around 1925, it was discovered that plastic can also be made from petroleum. However, the mass production of plastic only started after the Second World War.

In 2019 Suez Nederland came up with a solution to make Bakelite fully recyclable. Read more here


7 different types of plastic and how do you recognize them?

Plastics are molecules made up of smaller molecules, also called polymers. There are seven main types of plastic, the properties of which depend, among other things, on the polymer length.

The image below highlights the seven types of plastics:

It is very important to properly separate the different types of plastic. With the codes in the image above, which are under the plastic product, you are already going a long way in the right direction. In theory, all types of plastic can be recycled, but in practice this only happens with PET, HDPE, LDPE and PP, because these occur in by far the largest quantities and are safe to be recycled. No harmful fumes are released when these types of plastic are melted down.

If waste is too polluted, such as food residue in a plastic container or paint residue in a plastic tube, it cannot be reused and the plastic is still incinerated. In these cases, it is better to throw it in the residual waste.



The Oasus water bottle and biobased HDPE

But what is the Oasus water bottle made of? The Oasus is made of biobased HDPE, by using biobased raw material a significant reduction of CO2 emissions is achieved compared to standard fossil raw material.

In addition to the fact that there are fewer emissions during production, the water bottle can be completely recycled, because it is made of mono-material. The Oasus water bottle is of course intended for long-term use, but if the bottle is thrown away (hopefully after a few years), then the bottle can simply be thrown into the plastic waste. All separate parts are made of the same material, so that the parts of the bottle do not have to be separated from each other. In the recycling process, the different types of plastics are sorted. This means that no additional actions are required with the Oasus and we are sure that the plastic is melted down into a new product and does not go into the incinerator.


Sometimes biobased plastics and bioplastics are still confused and people think that biobased plastic can be thrown away with the organic waste. This is not right! Both biobased plastics and Bioplastics are not allowed in the organic waste bin or on the compost heap. Biobased plastics are partly developed from renewable biomass such as corn, wheat, sugar cane or edible oils, but are not biodegradable. In contrast, the term “Bioplastics” refers to both biobased plastics and biodegradable plastics and can consist of oil-based plastic that is 100% biodegradable. Please note, these biodegradable plastics do not degrade themselves in nature, because this requires industrial composting machines with a specific heat and humidity. And even then it sometimes happens that the plastic has not completely broken down.


Do you also help with the proper separation of your plastic waste? Together we go for a cleaner world!

Curious about the Oasus water bottle? Create your own Oasus water bottle here!