As early as the 1600’s, plastic was used as a term to relate to something that could be easily molded or shaped. It is derived from the Latin word plasticus and the Greek word plastikos, which both have the meaning “able to be molded, pertaining to molding.” The Greeks most likely used plastikos to describe unhardened versions of clay used for pottery. Today’s use of plastic is widespread, largely thanks to John Wesley Hyatt, who invented the first synthetic polymer in 1869. This invention of synthetic polymer allowed for clothing to be made from synthetic fibers, polyethylene cups, fiberglass, nylon bearings, plastic bags, polymer-based paints, epoxy glue, polyurethane foam cushion, silicone heart valves, Teflon-coated cookware, and much more. ISO 1043-1:2011—Plastics – Symbols And Abbreviated Terms – Part 1: Basic Polymers And Their Special Characteristics defines the abbreviated terms for basic polymers used in plastics.
Plastics vs. Polymers: What Is the Difference?
Polymers are found in nature and manufactured in laboratories. They consist of chains of joined individual molecules (the small particles that make up matter) or, more specifically, monomers (a molecule that can join together to form a polymer). The length of these polymer chains determines the properties of plastic. For example, the length of the polymer chain for polyethylene (PE) determines its hardness. So, plastics are a type of polymer composed of chains of polymers that can be partially organic or fully synthetic.
The main difference between plastics and polymers is that all plastics are polymers, but not all polymers are plastics. This means that natural polymeric materials like hemp or wool are not considered to be plastics, but they are polymers. Polymers also tend to be more flexible in terms of what they can be used for (e.g., clothing, textiles, insulation, and plastic products), and they can be manipulated into many forms (e.g., fibers, sheets, cords and various shapes).
What Is ISO 1043?
ISO 1043 consists of the following parts, under the general title Plastics — Symbols and Abbreviated Terms:
- ISO 1043-1:2011— Basic polymers and their special characteristics
- ISO 1043-2:2011— Fillers and reinforcing materials
- ISO 1043-3:2016— Plasticizers
- ISO 1043-4:2021— Flame Retardants
This series provides uniform symbols and abbreviated terms for plasticizers, fillers and reinforcing materials, basic polymers, and flame retardants added to plastic materials.
What Is ISO 1043-1?
ISO 1043-1:2011 defines abbreviated terms for the basic polymers used in plastics, symbols for components of these terms, and symbols for special characteristics of plastics. It includes abbreviated terms that have come into established. The objectives of the standard are to prevent the occurrence of more than one abbreviated term for a given plastic and to prevent a given abbreviated term being interpreted in more than one way.
Guidance for the preparation of new abbreviated terms, reference lists of symbols for the components of plastics terms used to form the abbreviated terms for plastics, and a classification of abbreviated terms for polymers grouped by type are provided in ISO 1043-1:2011.
Examples of ISO 1043-1 Abbreviations
The following list gives examples of the many abbreviated terms for plastics materials in the standard:
- AB: acrylonitrile-butadiene plastic
- ABAK: acrylonitrile-butadiene-acrylate plastic; preferred term for ABA
- ABS: acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene plastic
- ACS: acrylonitrile-(chlorinated polyethylene)-styrene; preferred term for ACPES
- CP: cellulose propionate
- CTA: cellulose triacetate
- EAA: ethylene-(acrylic acid) plastic
- HBV: poly(3-hydroxybutyrate)-co-(3-hydroxyvalerate)
- LCP: liquid-crystal polymer
- PA: polyamide
- PAA :poly(acrylic acid)
- PAEK: polyaryletherketon
- PET: poly(ethylene terephthalate)
- SB: styrene-butadiene plastic
- UP: unsaturated polyester resin
- VCE: (vinyl chloride)-ethylene plastic
- VCMAK: (vinyl chloride)-(methyl acrylate) plastic; preferred term for VCMA
- VCVAC: (vinyl chloride)-(vinyl acetate) plastic
Natural and Synthetic Polymers
Naturally occurring polymers include tar, shellac, hemp, wool tortoiseshell, animal horn, cellulose, amber, and latex from tree sap. Wool, leather, and flax are processed into fibers to make clothing; animal bone is boiled down to make glues. On the other hand, synthetic polymers are human-made polymers and include the following:
- Polyethylene (PE) is used in plastic bags, packaging, film wraps, electrical insulations, toys, food containers, fishing nets, and bottles
- Polystyrene (PS) is used to make Styrofoam cups
- Polypropylene (PP) is used for fibers and bottles
- Poly(vinyl acetate) (PVAC) is used in adhesives and latex paint
- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is used for food wrap, bottles, siding, flooring purposes, and drain pipe
- Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is used for nonstick surfaces and to make gaskets, vessel linings, and chemical tanks
- Polyacrylonitrile (PAN) is used for making clothes and fabrics like sweaters, hats, and rugs
ISO 1043-1:2011—Plastics – Symbols And Abbreviated Terms – Part 1: Basic Polymers And Their Special Characteristics is available on the ANSI Webstore and in the following standards package: