The Impact of Bakelite on the Environment


John Wesley Hyatt found a way to melt cellulose nitrate and react it with camphor under heat. The result was a strong, flexible, waterproof and moldable plastic substance. Later in the 1860s, it was called “Celluloid”. Celluloid has been used to create items as diverse as eyeglass frames, piano keys, and pool balls. Celluloid, on the other hand, tends to soften when heated and is not appropriate for a molding technique like injection molding. In 1907, Baekeland created the first synthetic plastic called “Bakelite”. The name of Bakelite is also mentioned as phenol formaldehyde. Leo Hendrik Baekeland is a Belgian-American chemist. Bakelite material is a strong product resistant to heat and chemicals. Bakelite does not conduct electricity.

Areas where you can use bakelite:

  1. Electrical Insulation
  2. Various Electrical Equipment
  3. Household Appliances
  4. Holders For Food Containers

In addition, it is also used for:

  • Bakelite Lamps
  • Table Sets
  • Hours
  • Radios
  • Telephones
  • Dishes
  • Food Dishes

It is especially chosen for mass production due to its versatility in shaping a wide variety of goods, including children’s toys. Leo Hendrik Baekeland’s discovery of Bakelite stimulated the search for new synthetic polymers. And in 1935, it led to the production of nylon. In 1933, it led to the production of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyester, polystyrene (PS) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Chemical and weather resistance, conventional glass materials such as paper and plastic replace these materials over time. These attractive qualities lead to an ever-increasing amount of plastic litter. And now it is important to solve the main problem of plastic waste (Punyauppa-path & Pattanapipitpaisal, 2017). The globe is dealing with the issue of growing plastic trash as more plastic is created and used in daily life.


One of the most significant environmental impacts of Bakelite is its non-biodegradability. Bakelite does not naturally degrade over time. That is, any Bakelite products that are thrown away remain in the environment for hundreds or thousands of years. This can have significant consequences. Because bakelite waste takes place in landfills. And it can also pollute oceans and waterways. Considering the amount of plastic that is produced, we can understand the impact that waste bakelite can have.

It has done some reporting for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. More than 300 million tons of plastic garbage are created annually, according to their research. And only 9% of this waste is recycled. This implies that the great majority of Bakelite trash is disposed of in landfills or the environment.

Non-biodegradability of Bakelite waste is an important problem. Because it can have long-term consequences for the environment. For example, plastic waste in the ocean can harm marine life, as animals may ingest plastic or become entangled in it. This can have ripple effects throughout the food chain, as plastic waste can accumulate in animals over time. In addition, plastic waste in landfills can also cause environmental consequences. They can take up space that could be used for other purposes. And it can also pollute groundwater and soil.

Energy-Intensive Production Process

The manufacturing process for Bakelite is energy intensive. It generates significant waste, including hazardous chemicals that pollute air and water. Bakelite is made from a mixture of phenol and formaldehyde derived from petroleum and coal respectively. These raw materials are energy intensive to produce and process. It contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Thermal energy is mainly used in the production of Bakelite. The process can also cause respiratory and other health problems. These produce significant emissions, including formaldehyde, a hazardous air pollutant. Waste generated during production also pollutes water sources. It creates conditions that can harm people and wildlife.

Energy-Intensive Production Process

Difficulty in Recycling

Recycling of Bakelite is of great importance. It is considered expensive due to its phenol formaldehyde content. Due to its unique composition, Bakelite cannot be recycled with other plastics. This situation makes it difficult to dispose properly. Non-recycling, bakelite waste accumulates in landfills, pollutes oceans and waterways.

Toxicity of Bakelite

Bakelite is also toxic. Formaldehyde, a major component of Bakelite, is a known carcinogen linked to leukemia and other cancers. Formaldehyde is also a respiratory irritant. This can cause shortness of breath, cough and other health problems. When Bakelite is heated or burned, it can release toxic fumes that can harm people and the environment.

Sustainable Alternatives to Bakelite

Fortunately, there are durable alternatives to Bakelite. Some plastics can be used in the same applications as Bakelite. These are biodegradable and environmentally friendly materials such as cellulose acetate. These materials are obtained from renewable sources. It can be composted or recycled at the end of its life cycle. Sustainability is becoming an important factor in reducing the impact of plastics on the environment. Companies are now looking for environmentally friendly alternatives to Bakelite. To reduce the amount of waste and its impact on the environment, the use of sustainable alternatives to Bakelite may be appropriate

The impact of environment

Bakelite’s positive impact on the environment

One of the most important advantages of Bakelite is that it is a renewable material. Instead of traditional plastics derived from non-renewable fossil fuels, Bakelite can be made from renewable resources. In addition, Bakelite can be recycled. That is, it can be ground and reworked to create new products. This is a significant advantage over traditional plastics, which are often dumped in landfills or the ocean. By using Bakelite instead of conventional plastic, we can reduce the impact of our consumption on the environment. Although Bakelite does not degrade naturally, its recovery and recyclability make it a durable material for many different uses.Also, using Bakelite can help reduce carbon emissions. Bakelite can be made from renewable resources with a lower carbon footprint.Another important advantage of Bakelite is that it can be used in a wide range of applications. This plastic is extremely durable. It is heat resistant, making it ideal for use in electrical components, kitchen appliances, and other items that must withstand high temperatures or harsh conditions. By using Bakelite instead of traditional plastic, we can produce more durable and long-lasting products.This means fewer product changes, less waste, and minimizing the environmental impact of our consumption.


As a result, although Bakelite, the world’s first synthetic plastic, has a serious impact on our lives, it also has important environmental consequences. Bakelite waste is not biodegradable. The production process requires energy. It produces significant waste, including hazardous chemicals that pollute the air and water. Recycling Bakelite is difficult and expensive due to its composition. Bakelite, on the other hand, emits a toxic substance when heated or burned. There are sustainable alternatives to Bakelite. In order to reduce Bakelite’s harmful effects on the environment, it is important to promote sustainability.