Plastic table and chairs -
click to enlarge
Domestic life was improved in the second half of the twentieth century by new synthetic (man-made) materials like plastics. Most are made from chemicals obtained from petroleum. Plastics are light and tough. They don’t rust, rot or conduct electricity, and can be shaped easily.
Plastic is also a good thermal insulator. Materials that allow heat to pass through them easily are called thermal insulators. Thermal insulators are good for keeping heat out as well as in. For example Polystyrene is used for wrapping around water pipes because it stops the water from freezing. It is also used a lot for packing.
Did you know nylon – most famous for its use as stockings - was a plastic, too? Made in the early 1930s, it was the very first synthetic fibre.
A selection of plastic gadgets
A synthetic fibre is a thin thread that is made from chemicals - most are made from plastics. Large amounts of synthetic fibres are used in the textile industry, either by themselves, or in mixtures with natural fibres such as cotton and wool. Modern furniture and clothes would look and feel totally different without these synthetic materials.
Designers loved the new material because it could be moulded into any shape and came in strong colours. They used it for everything, including fashion, furniture and tableware.