The key difference between resin and plastic is that the resins are more of a natural origin since we produce them directly from the plant oozes whereas the plastics are of synthetic polymeric nature.
Resin and plastic are of an organic nature, which mainly consist of long hydrocarbon chains. Due to the presence of repetitive units, both have polymer characteristics. However, while resins are more of a natural form, plastics are generally synthetic or semi-synthetic in nature.
What is Resin?
For many years, people have used resins in a wide range of applications. For example, to seal boats, mummies, food containers etc. Also, resins serve as a component in varnish, lacquer, jewellery, perfume, and inks. But, talking from a chemical point of view, we can categorize resins as a group of solid or semi-solid amorphous compounds. We can obtain this compound directly from plants as exudations. Also, they usually have a clear yellowish brown colour and are highly viscous substances that harden into transparent solids with treatment. Furthermore, they mainly consist of volatile liquid terpenes and fewer amounts of dissolved non-volatile solids thereby making the resins sticky (gluey) and thick. Bicyclic terpenes are the most common type of terpenes that we can find in resins.
However, with the advancement in technology, new methods are in use to develop these resins into functional polymers. Therefore, synthetic resins soon came into being. Synthetic resins are generally more stable, predictable and have a uniform character since we produce them under controlled conditions. Also, because of the controlled conditions, the possibility of the introduction of impurities is minimal. Moreover, they are often cheaper and easier to refine.
What is Plastic?
We can broadly categorize plastics as a type of synthetic resin. But, more correctly they are synthetic or semi-synthetic organic polymers of high molecular mass which are mouldable. Generally, plastics are derived from petrochemicals. Therefore, most of them remain partially natural. However, there are plastics purely natural in character, and we call them as bioplastics since we usually produce them from renewable plant material.
Moreover, plastics being typical polymers of hydrocarbons also contain other elements such as oxygen, sulphur, nitrogen and halogens. Often, we add other organic and inorganic additives to plastics, to improve their properties and colour. For example, using plasticizers to reduce the rigidity of plastics.
We can categorize plastic under several forms due to its chemical nature and structure. They are acrylics, silicones, polyesters, polyurethanes and halogenated plastics.
Some unique properties of plastics are as follows.
- resistant to heat
- ionizing radiation and organic solvents.
Considering their usage, the uses of plastics are so wide that we can find them in paper clips, bottles, textiles, furniture, food packaging, fibres, automobiles etc. Due to the desirable properties of plastics, we can use them to replace many other forms of material useful in the past such as wood, glass, metal, ceramics, leather, paper etc. Some common types of plastics are polythene, Bakelite, PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) and Nylons.
What is the Difference Between Resin and Plastic?
Resins are more of a natural origin since we directly derive them from plant oozes whereas plastics are of synthetic polymeric nature. We mainly derive plastics from petrochemicals. Therefore, this origin is the key difference between resin and plastic. Moreover, another difference between resin and plastic is that the plastics are more stable, predictable and lack impurities, unlike resins in which we cannot avoid impurities.
Furthermore, plastics are slow in degrading and, therefore, causes environmental pollution. Also, various additives in plastics have toxic characteristics. Whereas, the resins, being purely natural, remain environmentally friendly. Hence, this is a noteworthy difference between resin and plastic. Apart from that, another difference between resin and plastic is their appearance. Plastics are hard and dense in nature, whereas resins are viscous and gluey substances.
Summary – Resin vs Plastic
In summary, resin and plastics are very important compounds that consist of hydrocarbon compounds. The key difference between resin and plastic is that the resins are more of a natural origin since we directly derive them from plant oozes whereas the plastics are of synthetic polymeric nature.
1. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Resin.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 11 Apr. 2016. Available here
2. “Plastic.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 Oct. 2018. Available here