Advantages and disadvantages of plastics

23 March 2023

Overview of covered topics

Plastics are a group of thousands of different materials. They have a very wide range of applications. Their use has both advantages and disadvantages. This article presents some basic information on the subject.

By reading the article, you will learn:

  • What are plastics?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of their use?
  • What are the application sectors of plastics?

What is plastic

Plastic is a material in which the basic building blocks are macromolecular compounds (synthetic polymers or natural materials can be used) along with additional ingredients aimed at improving the utility properties. Such additives can include, for example, fillers, antioxidants, or dyes.

Based on their origin, one can distinguish:

  • Natural origin polymers – these occur naturally in the environment and are produced by living organisms (e.g., cellulose, chitin, rubber).
  • Synthetic polymers – artificially created by humans (e.g., polyethylene, polystyrene, poly(vinyl chloride))
Att. Polymer materials

Advantages of plastics

Due to their advantages, plastics are widely used in various branches of industry.

Low weight

A decisive advantage of plastics is their low density, which affects the weight of the products. The density of HDPE is 0.954 g/cm³, which, compared to steel at 7.9 g/cm³, is more than eight times lower. It is not without reason that many automotive and aircraft parts are made of plastics. The low density results in a favorable ratio of mechanical strength to the weight of the finished products. Thanks to the lower weight of the vehicle, fuel consumption is reduced, which has a real impact on the natural environment. Many clients turn to us with tank projects that they would like to switch from steel to plastic precisely because of this feature. More about tank production is described in a dedicated article.

It is possible to use synthetic polymers as well as natural materials

Low production cost

Plastics are relatively cheap to produce, making them a popular choice for manufacturers. The price is also influenced by the ease of molding, the availability of plastic material, and the ease of processing.

Corrosion resistance

A unique feature of plastics is that they do not corrode. Parts made of plastic can be used outdoors without the need for additional protective coatings. We can modify the properties of plastics by using various types of additives. These can provide beneficial characteristics, such as resistance to UV radiation.

Very wide range of materials

The range of plastics is unlimited – there are many types of plastic. It doesn’t have to be just the hard material often associated with so-called “cheapness.” They come in various forms and properties – they can be hard and brittle, but also soft and flexible.

Possibility of reuse

Another important feature of plastics is the possibility of their multiple processing. Products that have already fulfilled their original function do not have to be immediately disposed of, but can be converted into granules and reprocessed (e.g., by injection molding or extrusion). However, it should be remembered that with the number of processing cycles (i.e., how many times the material has been processed), it may have weaker mechanical properties.

Wide production possibilities

The ease of processing means that we can make products with complex shapes from polymer materials.

Ecological materials

There are many types of plastics that are biodegradable. A flagship example of a material that is considered the most “eco-friendly” and often referred to as “double green” is PLA (Polylactic Acid). It is produced from lactic acid and undergoes 100% biodegradation.

Wide range of color options

By using additives, we can achieve virtually any color, which has a positive impact on the final appearance.

Don't wait!

Tailor the technology to your needs to reduce plastic production costs.

Disadvantages of plastics

Below, we have described the basic disadvantages of plastics.

Limited thermal resistance

One of the drawbacks of using plastics is their temperature limitation. High temperatures can cause them to deform. There are, of course, additives that can be used to expand their temperature range, but many materials operate in the range of -several to +100 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, there is no way to approach the temperatures at which materials like carbon steel can operate continuously (e.g., carbon steel has a maximum long-term operating temperature of 425 degrees Celsius).

Petroleum based

Many commonly used plastics (such as PET) are produced from petroleum. These resources are limited, so looking through the environmental aspect, more and more companies are investing their resources in plastics in “bio” plastics (you can find a detailed description of the plastics used here)

Difficulty in disposal

Plastics are difficult to dispose of, which can lead to environmental pollution because they have a very long decomposition time.

Some plastics have toxic properties

Some plastics can have a negative impact on the health of humans and animals. These include compounds such as Bisphenol A (used in the industrial production of polycarbonate products) or phthalates used as plasticizers. During the combustion of plastics, toxic compounds can be produced.

The application of plastics

The use of polymer materials

Plastics are actually used in every segment of our lives. Starting from everyday items like packaging, decorations, or seals, and ending with industrial products such as wastewater treatment tanks. Products like plastic housings, safety helmets, or prosthetics have a real impact on improving human life. Plastics are also used in the heating industry. We have written a separate article on this topic.

Plastics – segments

As per the PlasticsEurope report, for several years now, the largest segment of plastic applications has been packaging, accounting for as much as 40.5%. The next segment is construction (20.4%), and the automotive industry is in third place (8.8%).

The plastics industry is the 8th most important in the world. The demand for plastics is constantly growing, which leads to an increase in job opportunities and has a direct impact on the GDP.


Like all existing materials, plastics have their advantages and disadvantages. Their low weight, ease of processing, favorable cost, and the possibility of recycling are just some of the factors that contribute to their wide range of applications in various industries. However, high operating temperatures can be a significant limitation.

A wise approach to production ensures that the use of plastics has no negative impact on the natural environment, thanks to multiple processing and proper disposal. However, an unaware approach can lead to plastics polluting the natural environment.

Are you considering plastic production? Consult your project with us and obtain the necessary knowledge to determine its profitability.

Adam Bernacki

Adam Bernacki

Technical director at Plastipol Poland. Popularizer of knowledge about plastics processing. Industry experience gained through education at Scandinavian polytechnics, work in global corporations in the plastics industry, and by managing technical issues in a Polish company. Specialist in plastics batch and mass production technologies. Author of articles and industry texts for clients in various industry sectors. Training Advisor.