Synthetic Fibres & Plastic

By Ajay Anand

Synthetic Fibres

Fibres which are man-made are called synthetic fibres, e.g. nylon, acrylic, etc.

A synthetic fibre is made of multiple units of a chemical substance.


The units in a fibre are joined together like a chain. This chain is called polymer.

A unit of polymer is called monomer.


Rayon was discovered towards the end of the nineteenth century.

It was made by chemical treatment of wood pulp and was the first synthetic fibre.

Properties of Rayon

Rayon is similar to silk but is cheaper than silk. Hence, rayon is also called poor man’s silk.

Rayon can be dyed in various colours.

Rayon is usually mixed with cotton to make bedsheet and dress materials.


Nylon was made in 1931.

The term nylon has been derived from letters of New York and London.

Nylon is called the first truly synthetic fibre.

Properties of Nylon

Nylon is strong, light and elastic.

It is lustrous and easy to wash.

Nylon is used in many articles: like socks, bags, toothbrush, rope, sneakers, parachute, etc.


Polyester is made of repeating units of a chemical called ester.

Terylene is a popular polyester which is used in dress materials.

PET (Poly Ethylene Terephthalate) is another example of polyester.

It is used for making bottles, utensils, films, wires and many other items.

Polyester fabrics do not wrinkle easily and are easy to wash.


Acrylic resembles wool and hence is also called synthetic wool.

It is cheaper and more durable than wool, and is easier to wash and maintain.

Properties of Synthetic Fibres

They are less expensive.

They are readily available.

They can be easily washed.

They are easy to maintain.


Plastic too is a polymer. But arrangement of units is different in different types of plastic.

In some plastics, the individual units are linked in a linear fashion.

In some other plastics, the individual units are cross-linked.


Some plastics easily get deformed on heating, and can be easily bent and reshaped by heating.

They are called thermoplastic. Polythene and PVC are examples of thermoplastic.

Thermoplastic is used for making combs, toys, buckets, mugs, etc.

Thermosetting Plastic

Some plastics do not get deformed on heating, and cannot be re-molded into a new shape.

Such plastics are called thermosetting plastic. Examples: Bakelite and Melamine.

Bakelite is used for making electrical switches and switchboards because it is a poor conductor of heat and electricity.

Melamine is resistant to fire and is hence used for making utensils.

Why Plastic is Popular?

Plastic is non-reactive

Unlike iron, plastic does not react with air to form rust.

Due to this, plastic has replaced iron from many articles.

Plastic does not react with many chemicals, and so, plastic containers are used for keeping many materials and chemicals.

Why Plastic is Popular?

Light Strong and Durable

Plastic is lightweight, strong and durable.

Plastic chairs have replaced wooden chairs in most of the households.

Wooden crates have been replaced by plastic crates, for keeping milk and cold drinks.

Most of the warehouses now use plastic pellets for keeping goods.

Why Plastic is Popular?

Poor Conductor

Because of poor conductivity to heat and electricity, plastic is used for making switches and many components of electrical appliances.

Handles of utensils are made of plastic because such handles do not heat up.

Plastic & Environment

The non-biodegradable nature of plastic poses a big problem.

Plastic has become very popular due to many of its inherent benefits.

But popularity of plastic is proving to be a curse for the environment.

Plastic waste is getting accumulated all around us.

This is creating a burden of plastic waste on the earth.

Harms of Plastic Bags

Plastic bag keeps on accumulating in the environment.

It chokes drains.

A stray animal can die if it accidentally swallows plastic bag.

Tackling Plastic Waste

Follow the principles of three Rs, i.e. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Use recyclable plastic or use shopping bags of cloth or jute.

Do not throw plastic bags on roads or in drains.

Reuse plastic containers for keeping household items.