The development of plastics is believed to have started around 1860, when a US pool and billiard board company offered a prize of $10 000 to a person who could design the best substitute for natural ivory.
One of the entrants, although not the winner, John Wesley Hyatt, developed a derivative for the contest. His product was quite successful commercially, being used in the manufacture of products from dental plates or men’s collars.
Most plastics are derived from petrochemical feedstock, which in turn originates from oil, natural gas or coal. In South Africa the gas comes from coal.
Despite the popular misconception, the identification code does not indicate the safety of the products – it is an international code used to identify the various plastics for effective recycling.
Plastics are collected and sorted into different types of plastics. The plastic articles are reduced in size i.e. cut up into smaller pieces with a granulator or shredder. The granulated flakes are put through a wash plant to remove labels, residual contents, and soil.