Did you know that all of our past exhibitions are available online?
The ubiquitous nature of plastics means that they are often taken for granted. Very different plastics are lumped together in the one generic term with their special properties and capabilities often being overlooked by the consumer.
Plastics are synthetic or semi-synthetic polymers. A polymer is a
large molecule made up of a number of smaller units (monomers) and
joined together to create a long chain. They can be broadly divided
into two groups, thermoplastics and thermosets. Thermoplastics are those
which, once formed, can be heated and reformed. This means that they
are easily processed and recycled. Thermosets cannot be reformed or
remoulded so the recycling process poses different challenges.
Plastics truly are polymorphic. They are an extensive family of
materials which take many forms, and for many decades have been the
group of materials that are most widely used globally. They have a
broad range of properties and many typical characteristics which set
them apart from each other and make them particularly suitable for an
inexhaustible list of applications. They range from semi-synthetic
plastics, first developed over 150 years ago, to the fully synthesised
techno-polymers designed and engineered for very specific uses today.
With the growing realisation that fossil fuel resources are not
sustainable, there is a renewed interest in the development of bio
plastics derived from an increasing variety of sustainable biomass
This exhibition looks at some of the plastics we commonly encounter
in our everyday lives. It examines their history and development,
explains what sets them apart from each other and shows the more typical
applications, some of which have become icons of design, made possible
only because of the type of plastic used.
Louise Dennis, (Assistant Curator)