The Kid Should See This

Plastic Was Invented To Replace Bugs

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Learn how Plastic Was Invented To Replace Bugs, specifically to replace the shellac that can be made from the resin of a female lac bug. This science history video from Planet Money‘s series on oil explains how the expanding use of electricity in the early 1900s influenced the invention of bakelite, “the first plastic made from synthetic components.”

Before plastic (or plastic pollution), stuff was expensive. Back then, people relied on nature to make things: toothbrushes were made of silver, combs were made of tortoiseshell and clothes were made of cotton (well, they’re still mostly cotton, but you get the point.)

Then, in 1907, a chemist named Leo Baekeland found a way to turn useless oil gunk into plastic. Things haven’t been the same since. It opened up a whole world of affordable products. Suddenly everyone could get one of everything. This is the story of how plastic was first made, and how maybe we went too far with it.

lac bugs for insulation?
leo Baekeland, chemist
Related reading: Timeline of plastic development.

Then watch more videos about plastic, chemistry, inventions, history, the Ford Model T, pollution, solutions, and sustainability:
• The Life of a Plastic Bottle
• Plastics 101: What is plastic and how is it made?
• MarinaTex, a bioplastic made from fish waste
• How to fit 4 years of trash into a mason jar

Plus, essential viewing: What is the Circular Economy?

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