Trendculture : Plastic

October 2022


It is fantastic but also problematic, plastic has invaded our lives.

Humans have always wanted to develop new materials that are not found in nature. For example, a material that would be malleable, flexible and formable into any desired shape... This is the original meaning of the word "plastic". It now refers to synthetic materials made from oil. In addition to being light, resistant and inexpensive, they have excellent thermal and electrical insulation properties.

It all started in ancient Egypt, where glue was produced from milk casein. The infernal machine was launched! But it was at the end of the 19th century that fully synthetic materials were developed.

A prodigious material, plastic will mark the 20th century.


Discovered in 1907, bakelite was the first mass-produced plastic. It was a huge success from the 1920s to the 1940s. Inventions followed one another and plastic became THE symbol of modernity. In the 50's, its uses multiplied.
The iconic products of the "mid-century" period were made of plastic. More than forty years after its discovery, Plexiglas-Altuglas became the emblematic material of design, from the 60s to the 70s.

It's Plasticmania! 

Acrylic paint, which is also a form of plastic, marks the Pop Art ... And in 69, the plastic even goes on the moon, in textile form, with the Nylon flag of Neil Armstrong !

 The 80s and 90s saw the arrival of new uses and aesthetics such as the Swatch watch and the Smart car. They are mainly made from the prodigious material. "Plastic is fantastic".

Then it's the race for performance. Kevlar, invented in the 90s, is a polyamide that is extremely resistant to shocks and fire.

But after this euphoria, we discover the other side of the coin...

Plastic is toxic and pollutes, especially the oceans. Very resistant, it degrades with difficulty. Harmful to ecosystems, it is also harmful to ourselves: micro-plastics, invisible to the naked eye, are found in the food chain, from fish to humans.

Plastic is also a non-renewable resource, derived from petroleum. Moreover, it often contains harmful substances, such as phthalates, used to give flexibility.

In 1997, the 7th continent was discovered: a huge area of floating plastic waste in the North Pacific.

So what are the solutions?

Setting up actions to clean up the seas is proving to be laborious. Only small scale actions seem to work, like the collector boats, but it is not enough. It is therefore necessary to produce and consume plastic differently.

The New Plastics Economy Global, which brings together 250 manufacturers, is committed to reducing waste and pollution by 2025.

Limit single-use products! We replace them with reusable products.

Recycle or up-cycle used or unused items to make new products. We can recycle production leftovers but also collected waste. But it is also necessary to bio-source because today we can replace oil by other materials: Lego bricks are made from sugar cane. But we must avoid competing with food resources! So we must turn to agricultural waste, algae, shellfish, or even coffee grounds.

To conclude, the future of plastic will depend on our ability to reinvent it...!

Thomas Zylberman
Fashion Expert

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