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The rubber duck in our bathtub, the frame of our glasses, the keyboard of our computer; almost everything around us is made of plastic. Since its invention in the 19th century, not only is plastic used for making utensils but artists also often and eagerly make use of this material for their objects.

Figure 1 Millys Maserati I 1

Various types

A plastic is a synthetic material that can be made in a certain form (by heating/in a mould/under pressure). In the late 19th century the first plastics were made from organic materials such as cellulose and rubber, thus with so-called 'natural polymers'. In 1907 Leo Hendrik Baekeland invented the first fully synthetic plastic that also became a commercial success: Bakelite. In the course of the 20th century a long list of new types made from 'synthetic polymers' followed, which can be divided into so-called thermoplastics (fusible polymers), thermosets (non-fusible polymers) and elastomers (in which the molecules remain elastic).


The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands focuses on the identification of all types of plastics and the study of their degradation, cleaning and consolidation, and the application of coatings to plastic objects. The synthetic polymers investigated in the period 2008-2012 were:
Polyethylene (PE)
Polypropylene (PP)
Polyurethane (PUR)
Nylon (polyamide, PA)
Polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA, Plexiglas, Limacryl or Perspex)