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Plastics are materials that can be molded, spun, or shaped to make products for human consumption. Plastics may be natural or synthetic. Natural plastics are materials such as asphalt, bitumen, cellulose, horn, rubber, shellac, tortoise shell, and waxes. Humans have crafted products for millennia using natural plastics. Ancient peoples in all parts of the globe used natural plastics for decorative or functional purposes. The ancient Egyptians soaked the winding cloths for mummies in natural resins to protect the body of the deceased from decay. Musical instruments, parts of weapons, or other devices have been made in part or in whole from the horns of sheep, cattle, or other animals.

In the 1850s, shellac, a resinous secretion of the lac insect, was imported from southern Asia into ...

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