Understand Difference

Rubber and Plastic: Applications Differentiation and Environmental Impact

Introduction to Rubber and Plastic

Rubber and plastic are two of the most common materials that we use in our day-to-day lives. They both have versatile applications, ranging from household items to heavy-duty equipment.

Advancements in technology have transformed the way we use and perceive them. In this article, we will delve into the world of rubber and plastic, exploring their differentiation, categorization, and common usage.

By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of these two materials and appreciate them for their significant contributions to our lives.

Progress of Technology and Changes in Lifestyle

The growth of technology has had a massive impact on the way we live our lives. Advancements in medical science, transportation, communication, and other fields have transformed our lifestyle.

Technological progress has led to an increase in the usage of synthetic materials, including rubber and plastic. The development of synthetic materials has enabled us to create new products that meet our expanding needs.

Despite the widespread usage of rubber and plastic, these materials still pose significant environmental challenges. Owing to their resistance to decay, they pollute the environment, posing a threat to the ecosystem.

However, societal awareness is gradually growing, and companies are exploring ways to manufacture eco-friendly rubber and plastic materials.

Differentiation between Rubber and Plastic

Rubber and plastic have distinct properties that differentiate them from each other. Rubber is a naturally occurring substance that has a high elasticity, durability, and resilience.

Rubber can also withstand high temperatures and is resistant to solvents and chemicals. On the other hand, plastic is a synthetic material that has various degrees of hardness and flexibility.

It is cheap, light, and can be easily molded into different shapes. Rubber and plastic also vary in their response to temperature.

Rubber contracts when exposed to cold temperatures, while plastic expands under similar conditions. Manufacturers consider these properties when designing products to ensure they can withstand different conditions.

Classification of Plastics

Plastics can be classified into several types based on their properties and composition. Some of the most common types of plastics are:


Polyethylene (PE): This is the most widely used plastic as it is cheap and easy to produce. It is used to make plastic bags, bottles, and toys.

2. Polypropylene (PP): PP has high resistance to heat and can be molded into different shapes.

It is commonly found in packaging materials, containers, and housewares. 3.

Polystyrene (PS): This plastic has low density and is lightweight. It is commonly found in packaging materials, such as styrofoam cups and takeaway containers.

4. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): PVC is a hard and durable plastic that can withstand exposure to chemicals and heat.

It is commonly used in pipes, flooring, and electrical cables.

Common Usage of Plastics and Rubbers

Plastics and rubbers are used in various industries, including aerospace, automotive, electronic, medical, and packaging. Some of the most common uses of plastics include:

Packaging: Plastic is extensively used in packaging materials, such as bottles, bags, and containers.

Construction: Plastics are used in construction materials such as pipes, flooring, and window frames. Transportation: Plastics are used extensively in the automotive and aerospace industries to make parts such as dashboards, fuel tanks, and plane interiors.

Medical: Plastics are used in the medical industry to make devices such as syringes, IV tubes, and prosthetics. Similarly, some common uses of rubber are:

Automotive: Rubber is used in car and truck parts such as tires, belts, hoses, and seals.

Construction: Rubber is used in construction materials, such as roofing materials, insulation, and flooring. Medical: Rubber is used in medical devices such as catheters, gloves, and surgical tubes.


In conclusion, rubber and plastic have significantly impacted our lives, from enhancing our overall quality of life to transforming how we use and perceive synthetic materials. Their usage has grown exponentially due to advancements in technology, leading to vast applications in various industries.

Despite their widespread use, plastic and rubber pose significant environmental challenges, and we must make a conscious effort to use them responsibly. We must also encourage the production of eco-friendly rubber and plastic materials to minimize their environmental impact.

Sources of Rubber and Plastic

Rubber and plastic are ubiquitous materials that are used in various applications around the world. Rubber and plastic are derived from different sources and require distinct manufacturing processes to produce them.

In this section, we will explore the sources of rubber and plastic, focusing on the raw materials, including synthetic and natural rubber.

Raw Materials of Plastic and Rubber

The raw materials used in the manufacture of rubber and plastic differ significantly. Rubber is typically made from natural latex, which is extracted from certain types of trees, such as Hevea brasiliensis.

Latex is a milky fluid that is collected from the trees using a process called tapping. The collected latex undergoes several processes, including coagulation and centrifugation, to remove impurities and obtain rubber.

On the other hand, plastic is made from various sources, including petroleum, coal, natural gas, and plants. Petroleum is the most commonly used raw material in the production of plastic.

Petroleum undergoes several refining processes to extract specific components, such as ethylene, which is used to make several types of plastic.

Synthetic Rubber and Natural Rubber

Rubber can be categorized into two types: natural rubber and synthetic rubber. Natural rubber is a polymer that is obtained from the latex of rubber trees, while synthetic rubber is an artificially made product that is produced from petroleum products.

Natural rubber is a reliable and essential raw material in several industrial products. It is a versatile and durable substance that exhibits excellent elasticity and resistance to wear and tear.

Natural rubber can be processed to make various products such as gloves, tyres, surgical equipment, and footwear. Synthetic rubber, on the other hand, is an artificial product that is designed to mimic the properties of natural rubber.

Synthetic rubber was developed during World War II when the supply of natural rubber became limited. Synthetic rubber is made by polymerizing monomers to form a polymer structure that resembles natural rubber.

The resulting structure can be modified chemically to obtain specific properties such as heat resistance or enhanced elasticity.

Elasticity of Rubber and Plastic

The elasticity of rubber and plastic differs significantly. Rubber has a higher degree of elasticity than plastic.

Rubber can stretch and revert to its original shape when subjected to stress. Plastic, on the other hand, is less elastic and can deform permanently when subjected to the same amount of stress.

Rubber is used in various applications that require significant elasticity, such as in car tires, while plastic is used in applications that require a less elastic material, such as in plastic utensils.

Sources of Synthetic Rubber and Plastic

Synthetic rubber is derived from petroleum products, which include crude oil and natural gas. The production of synthetic rubber requires several refining processes to extract the monomers that are used in the polymerization process that results in synthetic rubber.

Plastic can be made from various sources, including petroleum, coal, natural gas, and plants. Petroleum is the most commonly used raw material in the production of plastic, especially polyethylene, which is widely used in the packaging industry.

Other plastics, such as polystyrene, are made from petroleum fractions, while polypropylene is made from natural gas fractions. Plastic can also be made from renewable resources such as plants.

Bioplastics are becoming increasingly popular as consumers become more eco-conscious. Bioplastics can be made from various plant sources such as corn, sugarcane, and cassava.

Bioplastics have the advantage of being biodegradable and therefore, less harmful to the environment.


The sources of plastic and rubber are diverse, ranging from petroleum products, renewable resources and the latex of rubber trees. Through polymerization, plastic and synthetic rubber can be produced in a controlled manner to obtain specific properties such as heat resistance and elasticity.

By understanding the sources and manufacturing processes of rubber and plastic, we can make informed decisions about their usage and impact on the environment.

Environmental Impact of Rubber and Plastic

Rubber and plastic are ubiquitous materials, having several applications in various industries. While they contribute to improving our lives, they also pose significant environmental challenges.

Their widespread usage is attributed to their durability, lightweight, and ease of manufacturing. However, their disposal is detrimental to the environment, often resulting in pollution and littering.

In this section, we will explore the environmental impact of rubber and plastic, focusing on their sources, production, nonrenewable and renewable resources, and recycling.

Nonrenewable Resources and Recycling of Plastic

Plastic is a by-product of nonrenewable resources such as petroleum and natural gas, which are finite resources. The production of plastics consumes significant amounts of energy and results in significant greenhouse gas emissions.

The disposal of plastic is also a significant environmental concern as plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose. When disposed of improperly, plastic waste can pollute waterways and harm wildlife.

Recycling is a means of reducing plastic waste’s environmental impact while conserving nonrenewable resources. Recycling refers to the process of reprocessing plastic waste to make new plastic products.

Recycled plastic is sorted, cleaned, and melted down to form plastic pellets, which are used in the manufacturing of new plastic products. By recycling plastic, we can reduce the amount of plastic waste in landfills, conserve nonrenewable resources, and minimize the environmental impact of plastic.

Renewable and Nonrenewable Sources of Rubber

Rubber can be derived from renewable and nonrenewable sources. Natural rubber is obtained from the sap of rubber trees, which are grown in tropical countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.

Rubber trees take several years to mature before they can be tapped. The rubber sap is collected through a process known as tapping, which does not harm the trees.

Natural rubber is biodegradable and can be recycled, making it a more eco-friendly alternative to synthetic rubber. On the other hand, synthetic rubber is derived from nonrenewable resources such as crude oil and natural gas.

The production of synthetic rubber contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, making it less environmentally friendly than natural rubber. Synthetic rubber is primarily used in the tire and automotive industries, where it’s oil-resistant and possess specific elastic properties.

Recycling of Rubber

The recycling of rubber involves processing waste rubber to make new rubber products. Rubber recycling has several environmental benefits, including the reduction of waste materials in landfills, the conservation of energy and resources, and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions associated with manufacturing new rubber products.

Recycling of rubber involves several processes, including shredding, granulating, and refining. The first step in the recycling process is the shredding of waste rubber products into smaller pieces.

The shredded pieces are then granulated to produce rubber granules, which can be used to make new rubber products. Refining is the final step in the recycling process, which involves processing the rubber granules to remove impurities and improve the quality of the recycled material.


The production and disposal of rubber and plastic have significant environmental impacts. The nonrenewable sources of plastic make it more environmentally harmful, while renewable sources of rubber such as natural rubber are more eco-friendly.

Recycling offers a means of conserving natural resources, reducing pollution and waste, and minimizing the environmental impact of rubber and plastic. The recycling of rubber and plastic is essential to minimize their environmental impact and ensure their continued usage in various industries.

In conclusion, the environmental impact of rubber and plastic is a significant concern that requires our attention. While both materials have contributed to advancements in various industries, their nonrenewable sources, production processes, and improper disposal can lead to pollution and harm to ecosystems.

Recycling plays a crucial role in mitigating these impacts by conserving resources, reducing waste, and minimizing greenhouse gas emissions. It is imperative that we prioritize the recycling of rubber and plastic to protect our environment and create a more sustainable future.

By making conscious choices in our daily lives, we can contribute to reducing the environmental footprint of these materials and preserving our planet for future generations.

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