Posted on 11/07/2019 in 2019
Polymer or plastic?

pinfa has perhaps not always been attentive in the past in our use of the words “plastic” or “polymer”. This is a general tendency, with for example leading conferences titled Fire Resistance in PLASTICS (AMI FRiP Conference, 3-5 December 2019, Cologne) or Fire Retardant POLYMERIC Materials (FRPM 25-29 June 2019, Turku, Finland). However, the vocabulary is important, as illustrated by the ECHA proposal (currently open to public consultation, see below) to define a “microPLASTIC as a “SYNTHETIC POLYMER containing particle”. In the future, pinfa will therefore try to use the term “POLYMER” to refer to synthetic (polymeric) chemical molecules, and the term “PLASTIC” to refer to materials (generally) consisting of one (or more) synthetic organic polymers combined with additives, such as flame retardants, stabilizers, fillers, etc. In this context, SYNTHETIC can refer to both chemically-synthesised polymers or processed natural polymers (e.g. poly lactic acid PLA). As thus defined, “PLASTIC” covers all of thermoplastics, thermosets and reaction-setting materials (e.g. epoxy resins). It can be noted that some flame retardants are organic polymers, used either as ‘additives’ in plastics, or as the principal polymer molecule in plastics. Also, some polymeric materials in which flame retardants are used are not plastics (e.g. wood, which contains the natural polymer cellulose, or wool or cotton …). And also, there are INORGANIC POLYMERS, such as the flame retardant ammonium polyphosphate. pinfa’s intention is not to develop our own precise definition, but to be more precise in the future in our use of the words PLASTIC and POLYMER in order to reduce confusion.

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