How is plastic made?

How is plastic made?

From refinery to the grain

Plastic is made from petroleum. This petroleum is first pumped out of the ground. Because petroleum is a mixture of all kinds of hydrocarbons with long strings as molecules, you can make plastics from it.

In an oil refinery they purify the petroleum mixture by distillation. In a distillation process you separate the different fluids in the product by boiling them. Each liquid has a different boiling point, which makes it easy to separate the liquids.

What remains of petroleum are mainly fuels, for example gasoline and kerosene, but also substances from which you make plastic. These substances first have to go through a process called ‘cracking’. In cracking, the long molecules are broken into small pieces. This leaves substances that consist of smaller molecules, which are then the building blocks for plastic.

From these building blocks plastic granules and plastic powders are eventually made, but most plastic manufacturers use the plastic granules.

From granule to plastic

When the pellets have arrived from a refinery at a plastic manufacturer, the pellets will be stored in large silos. From these silos, the plastic manufacturer transports the granules through tubes to the so-called ‘extruders’.

During extrusion, PE granules are heated and melted in a cylinder containing a rotating screw (the extruder). The rotating screw pushes the molten PE beads forward and ensures that the material flows through an extrusion gap. The extrusion head gives the desired shape (tube). A tube with a very thin wall emerges from the extruder nozzle. This is blown up with air, creating a huge plastic balloon in a continuous process. When it has cooled down, the tube foil is wrapped and if necessary cut open into foil.

From plastic to plastic packaging

One of the things you can make from plastic are plastic packaging. When the foil is wrapped on a roll it has to be processed in the end so that it can be a packaging. To do this the roll must first pass through the confection department. Here the plastic roll is cut, and sealed to serve as an end product, end products within KIVO such as fish sheets, car seat covers, furniture covers, crate bags and garbage bags. If desired by the customer, we can also flexo print the products within our flexo printing department.

When the plastic packaging has the right shape, it is packed and prepared for transport to customers worldwide. After this, the plastic packaging can still be recycled if it is clean and well separated. This can be done at our own recycling plant REKS, for example.


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    Door: Theo Schilder Director of Business Development 18 December 2020