Plastics are polymers, which means "many parts." Plastic furniture was first invented in 1946 and designed by James Donahue and Douglas Simpson. The NRC manufactured this design prototype as the world's first moulded-plastic furniture chair, which was made from glass-fibre-reinforced cotton and synthetic resin adhesives. Three years later, plastic furniture became well-known by the general public in part because of furniture designer Charles Eames.
Polypropylene is a thermoplastic with two-dimensional molecular structures. This type of plastic can be heat softened and recycled. The most common eco-friendly thermoplastic used in furniture making is polypropylene. It is used on many types of plastic objects with hinges because this type of plastic can withstand movement. It is often used as plastic made for tops; such as large storage box furniture with hinges or snap closures. It is also used to make blow up furniture, such as sofas, chairs and more.
The thermoplastic PVC used in furniture making is polyvinyl chloride and is used to make panel edging and foils, among other uses. This type of plastic is not considered eco-friendly because it is generally not recyclable or biodegradable and is sometimes considered toxic or a "poison plastic" for children under a certain age. The plastic was used for a time in schools to make furniture. Now that the hazards of this plastic are known, limitations are being placed on companies for how they can use and manufacture this plastic.
Polymers have three-dimensional inner structures and are deemed thermosets. Polymers are widely used in furniture making because they can be combined with other materials like glass fibre. Polymers will not resoften when exposed to heat so they tend to hold shape and fair well in humid environments where outdoor furniture is needed. Polymers are difficult to recycle because they are made from nonrenewable oil.
Polycarbonate comes in sheets and can be carved and worked on with woodworking type tools to turn the plastic into furniture. This type of plastic is also easily cut so it can be moulded into distinct sectional furniture or used as decorative attachments on furniture when shaped. This type of plastic can also be moulded with heating tools into furniture. Polycarbonate is almost unbreakable when it is made into furniture. It is also recyclable and an environmentally sound plastic compared to PVC.